Unions Go to Court to Stop Vouchers for Private Schools: Suit Focuses on Freedom of Religion

Article excerpt

The nation's two largest teachers unions will go to court Monday to argue against issuing vouchers to allow poor families in Cleveland to get their children out of crumbling public schools and into private schools. The next legal battle over school choice and vouchers is set to begin at 9 a.m. Monday in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas in Columbus, Ohio, before Judge Lisa Sadler.

At issue is the constitutionality of a Cleveland voucher program signed into law last summer by Ohio Gov. George V. Voinovich, a Republican. The program is scheduled to begin this fall.

The case pits 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 Institute for Justice, which is representing low-income families who would benefit from the program.

"If I had a choice, I'd have [my children] out in the suburbs rather than here, but I don't have the funding," said Tara Hullum, a single mother of two who is on welfare and hopes to have both children in private schools in the fall.

Justin, 6, and Raven, 5, both won scholarships in a lottery last summer after the state received 6,200 applications for 1,500 vouchers worth $2,250 each.

Miss Hullum plans to send Justin to first grade at Bridge Hope Academy, one of several schools being launched because of the voucher program. Daughter Raven, who was in a Head Start program last year, is scheduled to start kindergarten at Metro Catholic School.

Last year, Justin attended kindergarten at Waverly Elementary School, a public school about a block from the Hullums' home on Cleveland's west side.

"Too many bad things happened," Miss Hullum said. …