School Choice & Charters

Oklahoma Special Education Vouchers Pass State Constitutional Muster

By Arianna Prothero — February 17, 2016 1 min read
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Crossposted from Charters and Choice

The Oklahoma Supreme Court has ruled that a school voucher program for students with special needs is constitutional, according to The Oklahoman.

The question before the court was whether state-funded vouchers used at religious schools constituted state support of religion, which is prohibited under Oklahoma’s constitution. The court ruled that the voucher program was legal because parents direct how the money should be spent, not the state itself.

Even though only about 400 students were using vouchers in the 2014-15 school year, the ruling could affect many more families in the state.

Oklahoma lawmakers are considering a couple of bills that would create education savings accounts, which, similar to the voucher program, would allow parents to use public money to send their children to private schools, including religious ones.

However, the ESA proposal is broader: all students would be eligible to participate and parents could opt to use state dollars to home school.

The court’s ruling on vouchers may ease any concerns among lawmakers that the ESA program would be unconstitutional because it routes public money to private religious schools.

“It certainly bodes well for the passage of the ESA program by eliminating one of the arguments often made against school choice,” said Matt Frendewey, a spokesman for the American Federation for Children, a pro-school choice organization.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the On Special Education blog.