Ohio Court Allows State Vouchers for Religious Schools: Second Win for Educational Choice

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The Ohio Court of Appeals yesterday refused to halt a new program that allows low-income students in Cleveland to use statefunded vouchers to attend private religious schools.

The one-sentence unanimous ruling from the three-judge panel rejecting an injunction sought by teachers unions is the second judicial victory for school choice in Ohio in as many weeks.

"It's a tremendous step forward," said Clint Bolick, vice president and litigation director for the Institute for Justice, representing Cleveland families whose children have received state vouchers and hope to be in their new schools when they open next week.

Last week, Judge Lisa Sadler of the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas upheld the constitutionality of the contested school-choice law that allows tax-funded "scholarships" at private and religious schools.

Scholarships were awarded in a lottery after the state got 6,200 applications for what was to be 1,500 vouchers worth $2,250 each.

The case has pitted the local affiliates of the 2.2 million-member National Education Association, the 900,000-member American Federation of Teachers and the American Civil Liberties Union against the state of Ohio and the Washington-based Institute for Justice, representing families trying to escape from failing inner-city public schools.

The next level of appeal for an injunction is the Ohio Supreme Court. The constitutionality of the state law remains before the state Court of Appeals.

Meanwhile, a new study of Milwaukee's first-in-the-nation school-choice program released yesterday confirmed the academic benefits of school choice that includes secular private schools.

Inner-city elementary students who participated in that program did better on math and reading tests after four years than pupils who stayed in public school. Ninety-seven percent of the students were black or Hispanic.

"The study confirms what we've argued for years, that when children are allowed to move to the school that best fits their needs, those children will excel academically," said Jeanne Allen of the Center for Education Reform. …