Five Arizona families, represented by the Institute for Justice, have intervened in the first-ever legal challenge filed against school choice programs for special needs and foster children. Three other states, Florida, Utah and Ohio, provide scholarships to more than 16,000 special needs children-and none of those programs have been subject to legal challenge.
Opponents, including the ACLU Foundation of Arizona and People for the American Way, filed an original action with the Arizona Supreme Court, seeking to bypass the trial court. The Court will consider the case tomorrow, January 9, and parents are urging the Court to either require the case be filed in the trial court, where a full factual record about the programs can be developed, or uphold the programs as consistent with the Arizona Constitution.
The lawsuit relies on recycled legal claims that the Arizona Supreme Court has already rejected and that are inconsistent with the State’s longstanding history of offering educational alternatives for K-12 and college education, including educational voucher programs. A report authored by IJ’s Director of Strategic Research, Dr. Dick Carpenter II, and released last week, details Arizona’s little-known voucher programs that for years have offered public aid to needy Arizonans to spend on the service provider of their choice-public, private or religious-just like the challenged school choice programs.
Private Choice in Public Programs: How Private Institutions Secure Social Services for Arizonans explains that Arizona operates at least six separate educational aid programs that help students in public, private and religious schools. And two of them specifically support services for foster children and children with disabilities. The only difference between the existing programs and the new scholarships is that bureaucrats decide when a private school is appropriate, instead of parents. The new program simply removes bureaucratic red tape and puts parents in