INSTITUTE FOR JUSTICEARLINGTON, VAHOME PAGE: http://www2.blogger.com/
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 12, 2007CONTACT: Lisa Knepper, (703) 682-9320Institute for Justice Pledges to Defend Universal School Choice in Utah.
Governor Signs Nation’s First Universal School Choice BillArlington, Va.—Today, the Institute for Justice, the nation’s leading legal advocate for school choice, pledged to defend in court the first-ever universal school choice program should it come under legal attack. Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. signed legislation today providing every family in the state the right to choose their child’s school.“The right to choose something as important as your child’s school should be a fundamental right,” said Chip Mellor, president and general counsel of the Institute for Justice.
“Today, that right becomes a reality in Utah, and we will vigorously defend parental choice against any legal challenge.”IJ has successfully defended choice programs in Cleveland—resulting in the landmark 2002 U.S. Supreme Court victory for school choice—Milwaukee, Arizona and Illinois.
The “Parent Choice in Education Act” provides scholarships ranging from $500 to $3,000, based on family income, for parents to use at any eligible private school. All current public school children are eligible, as well as children in private school whose families qualify for the federal free and reduced price lunch program.Even before the bill was signed, opponents of school choice such as the Utah Education Association suggested that a legal challenge could be in the works. If opponents file suit, IJ will intervene in the litigation on behalf of parents who wish to use the program in order to ensure their rights are protected.“Utah precedent is very favorable to school choice, and we are confident this program will withstand legal challenge,” said Dick Komer, an IJ senior attorney.
“School choice is perfectly consistent with the Utah and U.S. constitutions.”School choice opponents claim that the program violates the Utah Constitution’s Blaine Amendments—remnants of anti-Catholic and anti-immigrant bigotry that swept the country in the 19th century—because parents could choose religious as well as non-religious private schools. (About 59 percent of Utah private schools are non-religious.)
But the Utah Supreme Court has never read its Blaine Amendments as broadly as opponents suggest.Indeed, Utah already has multiple school choice programs, including higher educational assistance programs that allow students to choose public, private or religious colleges, in addition to Carson Smith scholarships for K-12 special needs students. But under opponents’ misguided theories, those programs should be unconstitutional as well.