Education Law (School Vouchers)
Zelman v. Simmons-Harris, No. 00-1751
The Supreme Court voted 5-4 to uphold an Ohio program that provides tuition aid for low-income Cleveland students to attend participating public or private schools of their parents' choice.
Because 96 percent of Cleveland voucher recipients have elected to enroll in private religious schools, opponents argued that the program causes taxpayer dollars to be spent in support of religion in violation of the First Amendment's establishment clause. The majority opinion, written by Chief Justice Rehnquist, disagreed, however, saying that "the constitutionality of a neutral educational aid program simply does not turn on whether and why, in a particular area, at a particular time, most private schools are religious, or most recipients choose to use the aid at a religious school."
Read Chief Justice Rehnquist's Majority Opinion reversing the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals and holding that the Ohio voucher program does not offend the First Amendment's establishment clause.
Read the Respondent's Brief (.pdf) asking the court to affirm the Sixth Circuit's decision that the Ohio voucher program violates the establishment clause because the program's aid finances religious education and indoctrination and that aid is "properly attributable to the state."
Read the 1998 Wisconsin Supreme Court Decision upholding the constitutionality of a Milwaukee voucher program that permits a percentage of Milwaukee students to attend any approved private school of their choice, sectarian or not.
Read the Maine Supreme Court Opinion holding that the First Amendment establishment clause required the state legislature to exclude all religious schools from the Maine voucher program.
Read the Sixth Circuit Opinion striking down the Cleveland voucher program on First Amendment grounds.
Read the Petitioner's Brief that asked the Supreme Court to review the Sixth Circuit's decision in Zelman v. Simmons-Harris, No. 00-1751.
Read the Becket Fund's Amicus Brief in support of the Cleveland voucher program.
Read the Center for Individual Freedom's Amicus Brief in support of the Cleveland voucher program.
Explore the extensive School Voucher Resources compiled in Focus on Law Studies (fall 1999).