Arizona Court Strikes Down Private School Vouchers

By Mark Walsh — May 15, 2008 1 min read
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An Arizona state appeals court today struck down two state laws authorizing private school voucher programs for children with disabilities and those in foster care.

A three-judge panel of the Arizona Court of Appeals in Tucson ruled unanimously that the programs violate a provision of the state constitution prohibiting taxpayer aid to any church or “private or sectarian school.”

“Our legislature apparently intended to foreclose the argument that the school voucher programs give unconstitutional aid to private schools by including statutory language ... stating that the public funds are a ‘grant of aid to a qualifying pupil through the qualifying pupil’s respective custodian and not to the grant school in which the qualifying pupil is enrolled,’” the court said in Cain v. Horne.

Under the programs, state aid is sent to participating private schools in the form of checks that must be endorsed over to the schools by the parents or guardians who choose the school for their children. Education Week reported on the enactment of the measures here.

“Even if the mechanism for disbursing tuition payments were more circuitous, it would still transfer state-appropriated funds to private schools,” the court said.

The coalition that challenged the laws, which includes the Arizona School Boards Association and the Arizona Education Association, has this press release about the ruling.

The laws were defended by Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne. There was no immediate reaction to the ruling on his Web site.

The Arizona Republic has this brief story suggesting that the ruling will be appealed to the Arizona Supreme Court.

A version of this news article first appeared in The School Law Blog.