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Indiana Supreme Court hears voucher challenge Wednesday

Updated: November 19, 2012 11:10PM



The Indiana Supreme Court will hear oral arguments Wednesday challenging the constitutionality of Indiana’s voucher program.

Enacted in 2011, Indiana’s Choice Scholarship Program, is considered the most expansive voucher program in the country with its 15,000-student cap disappearing next year.

More than 9,000 students are participating this year, doubling last year’s enrollment of about 3,900 students who received $16 million in state money to attend the school of their choice.

Voucher opponents point to three articles in the Indiana State Constitution that they say forbids using public money to support religious institutions. Of the 270 private schools accepting voucher students, the majority are church-based schools like Gary’s Ambassador Academy which enrolled the highest number of voucher students in the state last year at 110.

A dozen plaintiffs, including Glenda Ritz, the newly election state superintendent of public instruction, are part of the lawsuit to overthrow the voucher law. They’re seeking a permanent injunction to halt the program.

The state counters that tuition money goes to parents for them to choose where to send their children.

Specifically, the plaintiffs charge the Indiana Constitution calls for the General Assembly to provide for the education of Indiana children through a “general and uniform system of Common Schools.” Plaintiffs say the law is incompatible with two other provisions in the state constitution that safeguard Indiana citizens’ “freedom of conscience” by ensuring they are not compelled through their taxes to support religious institutions against their consent.

The state contends the General Assembly has the power to provide scholarships and to encourage education “by all suitable means.”

A Marion County judge upheld the voucher law earlier this year by denying the plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction. Ritz has said she’ll remove her name from the lawsuit after Wednesday’s hearing to avoid a conflict of interest.



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