Teachers, school administrators and clergy sued Friday to block the nation's broadest private school voucher plan on the day it took effect, arguing that the new Indiana law violates state constitutional provisions on education and protecting taxpayers from supporting religious institutions.
The lawsuit filed in Marion County seeks a preliminary injunction on grounds that most of the 352 private schools whose students are eligible for the vouchers are affiliated with churches or other religious institutions. It also said the Indiana Constitution directs the General Assembly to educate children through a "general and uniform system of Common Schools."
"This voucher program will provide public funds to private schools that can give individual preference to students based on test scores, disabilities, wealth and personal faith. Such preferences should not be publicly funded," said lead plaintiff Teresa Meredith, a Shelbyville public school teacher and vice president of the Indiana State Teachers Association, the state's largest teachers union.
At least two of the other 11 plaintiffs also are affiliated with teachers unions. They include a public school superintendent and former state school board member, a public school principal, and Methodist and Baptist ministers.
Named as defendants are Gov. Mitch Daniels, who signed the voucher plan into law on May 5, and Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett. Both strongly supported the voucher law as part of sweeping school changes.
Daniels issued a statement Friday saying ISTA was putting its "financial self-interest ahead of the interests of children and Indiana's low-income families."
Bennett said the lawsuit was expected.