Another victory for school choice

A judge upheld Indiana’s private school voucher law last week, rejecting opponents’ arguments that the largest such program in the nation unconstitutionally uses public money to support religion.

Indiana Superior Court Judge Michael Keele found the state’s School Choice Scholarship program doesn’t violate the state constitution because Indiana isn’t directly funding parochial schools. Instead, it gives scholarship vouchers to parents, who can choose where to use them.

About 4,000 children are currently enrolled in Indiana’s voucher program.

Indiana State Teachers Association President Nate Schnellenberger vowed opponents, including his union, will continue fighting the law.

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

One of the ironies of the tendency of teacher unions to oppose such educational choice is that the best teachers would probably fare better in a truly competitive education market, where schools could bid for the best talent — just as the best athletes today not only earn far more than the bulk of their peers but also have more freedom to choose where they want to work, thanks to the inroads of free agency.

The ruling could hardly have been better timed to help draw attention to National School Choice Week, set for Jan. 22-28.

Nearly 200,000 American children attended private schools last year as a result of 34 school voucher, scholarship tax-credit or personal tax-credit/deduction programs spanning 19 states and localities, reports the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice.

Approximately 1.5 million American families now home-school their children, practically doubling the 850,000 families reported to be doing that in 1999, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

And some 2 million children are attending charter schools this academic year, a number that’s quadrupled from just 349,000 in 1999-2000. There are now 5,637 charter schools in the nation, up from 1,542 in 1999-2000, reports the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

Here in Las Vegas, Brian Calle of the Friedman Foundation and a local home-school parent will speak at a free event starting at 6 p.m. Jan. 26 at the RISE Resource Center, 3460 N. Rancho Drive. To RSVP, call Elissa Wahl at (702) 515-1605 or email Elissa@riseresourcecenter.org.

Ms. Wahl, a member of Gov. Brian Sandoval’s new charter school task force, is upbeat about the current political atmosphere for both home-schooling and charter school alternatives here in Nevada.

Optimism helps, though Nevada still has a lot of catching up to do when it comes to school choice — and a state tuition voucher program would help even more.

If voucher opponents really believe it somehow constitutes a state “establishment of religion” to let families choose their own schools (religious or not), one can’t help but wonder why they don’t get busy creating more non-religious, non-government, private alternatives.

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