Find your next job fast at the Jan. 28 Virtual Career Fair. Register now.
Opinion
Education Opinion

Vouchers Are Still Not a Settled Issue

By Walt Gardner — July 03, 2015 1 min read

When the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that a voucher program in the state’s third largest school district violated the state’s Constitution, it left me confused (“Colorado Court Rules Use of Public Funds for Private Schools Is Unconstitutional,” The New York Times, Jun. 30). I thought that the U.S. Supreme Court in 2002 in Zelman v. Simmons-Harris had made it clear that vouchers pass muster as long as they go directly to parents, who can then choose the type of schooling they want for their children.

I realize that the Colorado ruling reflects the will of the people there. In 1992 and 1998, for example, voters rejected vouchers by an average landslide margin of 63.5 percent to 36.5 percent. But if the U.S. Constitution is the supreme law of the land, I’m at a loss to understand what has happened. I’m assuming now that the voucher program, which is called the Choice Scholarship Pilot Program, met the Zelman five-part test. If so, then how to explain the ruling?

Courtrooms are not supposed to be venues for popularity contests. They are places where the law alone is considered. That’s why the Colorado Supreme Court’s decision is so perplexing. But then again so are rulings in other states that to me have always been transparent end-runs. I’m referring to education savings accounts and tax-credit scholarships. There are currently 46 such programs in 23 states and the District of Columbia. For example, Florida is home to the nation’s largest tax-credit scholarship program (“How I Learned Not to Hate School,” The Wall Street Journal, Oct. 22, 2014). It is financed entirely by charitable contributions, which are offset by tax credits. As a result, its defenders claim that public funds are unaffected. But when people receive a tax credit, the amount represents dollars not paid in taxes.

Perhaps one day the issue of parental choice will finally be settled, whether in the form of vouchers or any other variant. Until then, I await clarification.

The opinions expressed in Walt Gardner’s Reality Check are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

Events

Teaching Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table With Education Week: How Educators Can Respond to a Post-Truth Era
How do educators break through the noise of disinformation to teach lessons grounded in objective truth? Join to find out.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
The 4 Biggest Challenges of MTSS During Remote Learning: How Districts Are Adapting
Leaders share ways they have overcome the biggest obstacles of adapting a MTSS or RTI framework in a hybrid or remote learning environment.
Content provided by Panorama Education
Student Well-Being Online Summit Keeping Students and Teachers Motivated and Engaged
Join experts to learn how to address teacher morale, identify students with low engagement, and share what is working in remote learning.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Join us for our NBOE 2021 Winter Teacher Virtual Interview Fair!
Newark, New Jersey
Newark Public Schools
Join us for our NBOE 2021 Winter Teacher Virtual Interview Fair!
Newark, New Jersey
Newark Public Schools
Superintendent, Dublin Unified School District
Dublin, California (US)
Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates
Superintendent, Dublin Unified School District
Dublin, California (US)
Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates

Read Next

Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: January 13, 2021
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Obituary In Memory of Michele Molnar, EdWeek Market Brief Writer and Editor
EdWeek Market Brief Associate Editor Michele Molnar, who was instrumental in launching the publication, succumbed to cancer.
5 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: December 9, 2020
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: Stories You May Have Missed
A collection of articles from the previous week that you may have missed.
8 min read