The program could violate the state constitution because it provides public money to schools whose main purpose is to promote religion.
Students who have signed up for Indiana’s broad new school voucher program could be jerked out of private schools mid-semester or forced to scramble to re-enroll in public school unless it’s allowed to proceed pending the outcome of a legal challenge, state officials argued August 11th.
Marion Superior Court Judge Michael Keele said he would rule early next week on a request from a group of teachers and religious leaders backed by the Indiana State Teachers Association to issue a preliminary injunction keeping the law from taking effect.
The program, which allows even middle-class parents to use taxpayer money to send their children to private secular and religious schools, violates the state constitution because it provides public money to schools whose main purpose is to promote religion, John West, an attorney for the group suing to stop the program, argued in Marion Superior Court.
“What we’re talking about here finally is a program that provides state funds to send children to religious schools,” West said.
Solicitor General Tom Fisher argued that the voucher system is legal because the state isn’t directly funding parochial schools directly. Instead, it gives scholarship vouchers to parents, who can choose which school to use them at.
He likened a parent using vouchers to send children to religious schools to a state employee donating part of his paycheck to a church. Any benefit to religious institutions from vouchers was merely incidental, Fisher said.
West disagreed, saying that vouchers helped religious schools recruit new students—and potentially new members—they otherwise wouldn’t have reached.