Last week, the Arizona Supreme Court said no to vouchers.
It ruled Wednesday that two voucher programs created to serve foster children and disabled students are a direct violation of the Arizona Constiution.
Here's what the constitution says. Article 9 Section 10: No tax shall be laid or appropriation of public money made in aid of any church, or private or sectarian school, or any public service corporation.
The voucher programs are a result of two Arizona statutes passed in the spring of 2006 that allowed public money to go to parents in the form of educational grants, used to subsidize tuition at religious or other private schools.
In February of 2007, a coaliton of educaiton and civic groups filed suit in response to the statutes, according to the Arizona Education Association. The AEA was part of the coalition, as was the Arizona School Boards Association, the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona and the Arizona Federation of Teachers, to name a few.
The coalition members call private school vouchers "a threat to the basic right of every child to attain an excellent public education," on the AEA website.
"Vouchers are not sound education policy," said Panfilo H. Contreras, Executive Director of the Arizona School Boards Association.
"They divert funds from an already strapped system and channel them to private organizations that, unlike public schools, are not required to be accountable for how the money is spent or the level of achievement that results. Vouchers also create inequities for students, particularly those who live in rural areas, where few private schools exist," said Contreras on the AEA website.
Several editorial boards sounded off in response to the ruling. The Tucson Citizen lauded the decision, saying "It's time our legislators sought to strengthen public schools instead of routinely seeking ways to funnel cash to private schools."
Robert Robb of the Arizona Republic also supported the court's decision, even though he supports vouchers. Here's his take:
"In response to the court's decision, Verschoor said: "It is a sad day in Arizona that parents are sent the message that they don't know what is best for their children."
That wasn't the message of the court's decision at all. It had nothing to do about whether vouchers were good or bad public policy. There's not a word in the decision about the merits of vouchers. Instead, the unanimous decision found that vouchers violated the plain language of the state Constitution. And, in this, the justices were quite right."
But, others argue the ruling contradicts court precedent. In a guest opinion to the Arizona Daily Star, Vicki E. Murray said, "Opponents claim that scholarships like Rebecca's aid private schools, not students. They fail to mention that Arizona public schools use public funds to send more than 1,000 students to private schools each year when they cannot provide the programs and services those students need. The real issue for school choice opponents isn't principle. It's power."
"Decades of Arizona Supreme Court precedent supports such educational options for families, and for nearly a century the U.S. Supreme Court has also reaffirmed "the power of parents to control the education of their own." Both courts have consistently rejected the assumption, apparently embraced by school choice opponents, that children are mere creatures of the state," she said in the Star report.