School Choice & Charters

Scholarship Boon at Risk in Arizona

By The Associated Press — October 26, 2009 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

A groundbreaking Arizona program providing tax breaks for donations for private school scholarships has been dealt another setback, as a federal appeals court let stand a ruling that revives a constitutional challenge.

According to an order released Oct. 21, a majority of participating judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit declined to have a larger panel review a unanimous April ruling that the decade-old and first-in-the-nation program could be unconstitutional by favoring religion.

A dissent listed eight judges voting to have an “en banc” review, but the order did not specify how many judges were in the majority. Nor did the court clerk’s office immediately return a call for comment on how many of the court’s 27 active judges voted.

The Arizona ruling, in the case of Winn v. Garriott, comes as, across the country, such tax-credit-supported scholarships are seen as fast outpacing vouchers as a state policy tool for promoting private school choice. (“Growth of ‘Neovouchers’ Sparks Debate Over Policies,” Jan. 7, 2009.)

At least seven states—Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island—have such tax-credit programs, for individuals, corporations, or both, according to research conducted by Arizona legislative aides.

Arizona’s 1997 law provides dollar-for-dollar breaks on state income taxes for donations to school tuition organizations.

Supporters of the law contend it gives Arizona students a wide range of education options.

Challengers argue that the law has had the practical effect of channeling a disproportionate amount of donations to sectarian scholarship groups, which funnel grants to students attending religious schools.

The Arizona Supreme Court in 1999 upheld the constitutionality of the law. The current case concerns how it is being implemented.

A lawyer for supporters of the program, Tim Keller of the Institute for Justice, said the dissent made a strong case for [U.S.] Supreme Court review.

A version of this article appeared in the October 28, 2009 edition of Education Week as Scholarship Boon at Risk in Arizona


Special Education Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table - Special Education: Proven Interventions for Academic Success
Special education should be a launchpad, not a label. Join the conversation on how schools can better support ALL students.
Special Education K-12 Essentials Forum Innovative Approaches to Special Education
Join this free virtual event to explore innovations in the evolving landscape of special education.
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.
Curriculum Webinar
STEM Fusion: Empowering K-12 Education through Interdisciplinary Integration
Join our webinar to learn how integrating STEM with other subjects can revolutionize K-12 education & prepare students for the future.
Content provided by Project Lead The Way

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School Choice & Charters Video Private School Choice: A Video Explainer
We're tracking the proliferation of school choice policies around the country. Here's how to get up to speed.
2 min read
School Choice & Charters Opinion What Would Religious Charter Schools Mean for Public Education?
Discriminating and proselytizing on the taxpayer dime will never be acceptable, writes Kevin G. Welner.
Kevin G. Welner
5 min read
A green apple with a cross shaped stem in between red apples.
Richard Mia for Education Week
School Choice & Charters Private School Choice Continues to Spread. 3 Things to Know
New research shows private schools increase tuition when states send public funds for parents to spend on private education.
6 min read
Image of private school kids outside in the school yard.
School Choice & Charters Opinion Does School Choice 'Work'?
Ultimately, the “how” of educational choice may matter more than the “what.”
10 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty