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Judge upholds Indiana school voucher law

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A judge upheld Indiana's school voucher law on Friday, rejecting opponents' arguments that the largest such program in the nation unconstitutionally uses public money to support religion.

Marion Superior Court Judge Michael Keele said the School Choice Scholarship program doesn't violate the state constitution because the state isn't directly funding parochial schools. Instead, it gives scholarship vouchers to parents, who can choose where to use them. That was essentially the argument made by the program's supporters.

About 4,000 children are enrolled in Indiana's school voucher program, making it the nation's biggest.

Indiana State Teachers Association President Nate Schnellenberger said opponents would keep fighting the law. The union had backed the lawsuit brought by teachers and religious leaders.

"The ruling from the judge does not shake our confidence and it will be appealed," he told The Associated Press.

But officials with the Institute for Justice, which represented two parents who wanted to use the vouchers, said they believed the ruling would stand. Attorney Bert Gall said similar laws in Wisconsin and Ohio had been upheld, and the U.S. Supreme Court had also affirmed the constitutionality of vouchers.

"Today's ruling is a resounding win for Indiana parents and students, and it is a major defeat for school choice opponents," Gall said in a news release.

The ruling also dismissed arguments that the program unconstitutionally took funds from public schools and sent the money to private schools. Keele wrote that the Indiana Constitution clearly authorized "educational options outside of the public school system."

Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller, whose office defended the state program, praised the ruling.

"The court agreed that the choice scholarship program does not violate anyone's rights, and we are pleased with the thoughtful analysis," Zoeller said in a statement.

Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma said the court ruling "validated" the school voucher program.

"The court clearly understood the goal that so many House Republicans fought so hard for, which is to give families ... school choice when it comes to their child's education," he said in a statement.

Lawmakers approved the law during the 2011 session. Gov. Mitch Daniels signed it last May and it took effect at the start of the school year. ISTA and opponents sued to block the law from taking effect, but Keele declined in August, saying it was likely to be upheld—which he did Friday.

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  • Whaitaminit!
    @INJen: No-one is forcing children to take religious instruction in the parochial school, unless the child is either already a member of that faith or is receiving instruction in that faith as part of the process of becoming a member of that faith. First-hand knowledge. Several of the kids I went to school with ere either Protestant of some flavor or another, or in a couple of cases, were Jewish! This was at a Catholic school, mind you. As to why a private, non-Christian school would turn down a student with a voucher...I can think of a couple of reasons: 1) The school is at maximum enrollment. 2) The voucher doesn't cover full tuition; perhaps the parent(s) couldn't make up the difference. Do you know of any students who might have been turned down at the Hebrew School? Oh, one other thing - be sure the non-Christian school you're looking at isn't a charter school - they have a different set of criteria than private schools (although they should be able to accept voucher students as well.)
  • It is everyone's money
    The money doesn't just belong to the parents - it belongs to everyone who pays taxes. And the only schools that take part in the voucher program are Christian. Why? I've never read a single article or tv news story that tells me why they are they only schools receiving voucher funding. Our family believes our children should learn religious instruction at church, not at school. But none of the non-Christian schools accept the vouchers. Not ISI, not Sycamore, etc. Why?

    The only part of this whole thing that makes me feel somewhat better about my tax dollars being used in schools where the kids are required to take religious instruction to attend is that some of those schools are in areas where the schools are terrible. At least some people will get their kids in a school that's better than the one public school in their neighborhood.

    And what about all the kids who have parents who aren't smart or motivated enough to do the paperwork? Those kids are going to grow up in our neighborhoods and towns. What will they be doing with their terrible public school educations?
  • FINALLY, time for a CHANGE
    Judge Keele's ruling was the correct one. Hopefully, this is just the tip of the iceberg for an educational system that needs overhauled. State legislators are planning additional reform that ISTA is not going to like, and that's a Good Thing! I agree, 'If something is not broke, don't fix it', but obviously it is broke and in need of repair. Many parents are very intentional in the development of the children, are speaking with a very loud voice, and are finally being heard by elected officials. It's a shame that local school boards, and organizations like ISTA are blind to the need for change. Indiana's constitution has always allowed parent's the right to educate their kids, in alternative educational environments, which the Public school system just can't or is too stubborn to do. A change in attitude is definitely needed and long overdue; don't fight it, but embrace it and make it better.
  • Where's the Outrage?
    First, we pay property taxes to support the schools and pay the teachers. No problem there. Now, more tax dollars have to be spent by the AG's office to defend an appeal brought by the teachers union, which is supported by dues which come from teachers salaries, which we paid for.

    We're paying for both sides of this fight! Why aren't more people outraged? No wonder there's so much support for RTW.
  • Hey, Schnellenberger..
    The tax money you so desperately want to keep in the public school system isnt yours. It belongs to the taxpayers ( parents of the kids). The State is simply giving it back to the parents to spend how they feel most appropriate. Sorry you cant wrap your bureaucratic brain around the concept. ITS NOT YOUR MONEY! I belongs to the people who pay taxes. The more of it we the citizens get to keep and spend as we see fit the better off our economy and country will be.

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