An Indiana judge has upheld the state’s ambitious new voucher law, saying it meets the standards of the state’s constitution, despite objections about it directing money to religious schools.
Superior Court Judge Michael Keele found that whether students choose to use public money to attend sectarian institutions is ultimately “immaterial,” because families are exercising their choice to do so.
Court decisions over state voucher programs typically turn on the language of individual state constitutions, and the extent to which they restrict the flow of public funds to religious and other nonpublic institutions, such as schools.
The Indiana case has drawn broad interest both from supporters and opponents of private school choice, in large part because of the large-scale nature of Indiana’s program.
While many voucher programs limit eligibility to students of low-incomes, or those with special needs, Indiana’s measure sets relatively loose restrictions on eligibility. The measure was one of several voucher programs created or expanded in states last year. Backers of vouchers say they expect a lot of activity on that front in statehouses in 2012.
A lawsuit challenging Indiana’s program was filed last year by a group of parents, teachers’ union members, and other residents. They argued that it violated various pieces of Indiana’s constitution, in part because it allows students to attend religious schools on the public dime.
But in his Jan. 13 ruling, Judge Keele said that has no bearing on the program’s constitutionality.
A version of this article appeared in the January 25, 2012 edition of Education Week as Judge Upholds Law on Vouchers in Ind.