Vouchers and credits for Private School tuition money are hot topics all around the country’s education industry, and the recent ruling in Arizona proves that, no matter where the funding originated from, taxpayer financing for Firm Schools is a hot debate.
Arizona’s tax-credit program to help pay for kids to attend Firm Schools was dealt a setback Wednesday when the 9th Circuit Court refused to overturn a previous ruling that the program is unconstitutional because some participating nonprofits give scholarships only to religious schools.
The individual Private School Tuition Tax Credits program allows taxpayers to donate to nonprofit school tuition organizations, known as STOs, to fund scholarships. The taxpayer then gets a dollar-for-dollar state tax credit in return.
The issue seems to lay with the fact that many of the STOs are limiting their scholarships to sectarian schools only.
“Arizona’s tax-credit program channels a disproportionate amount of government aid to sectarian STOs, which in turn limit their scholarships to use at religious schools. The scholarship program thus skews aid in favor of religious schools, requiring parents who would prefer a secular private school but who cannot obtain aid from the few available nonsectarian STOs, to choose a religious school to obtain the perceived benefits of a private school education,” the court ruled in April.
Wednesday’s ruling concurred with that decision
There are very valid reasons why some judges and may lawmakers disagree with the ruling:
“The government does not direct any aid to any religious school. Nor does the government encourage, promote, or otherwise incentivize private actors to direct aid to religious schools,” Judge Diarmuid F. O’Scannlain wrote in his dissenting opinion. “Rather, state aid reaches religious schools solely as a result of the numerous independent decisions of private individuals,” he wrote, referring to a court case about Ohio’s voucher program.
The decision to refund taxpayer money in a direct match for donations to STOs is going to be under debate and in the courts for some time, and may very well have far reaching consequences in the Private School environment.