School choice assaults: Indiana, Colorado, Wisconsin

September 01, 2011 | By PACIFIC LEGAL FOUNDATION

Author: Joshua Thompson

Some very interesting developments have been happening on the school choice front recently.  Of course, the big victory came back in April when the Supreme Court ruled that school choice programs funded by tax credits are not challengeable by taxpayers under the Establishment Clause.  While this was clearly a significant blow to advocates of government-only schools, the assault on choice in education continues.  I discuss the most significant campaigns after the jump.

Indiana. Back in May, Governor Mitch Daniels signed perhaps the country's most sweeping school choice bill into law. Within three years, all Indiana students will have the option of attending choice schools.  Yet, shortly after the bill was signed into law, the Indiana teacher's union challenged the bill as unconstitutional under the state's constitution.   Two weeks ago, the judge in that case denied a preliminary injunction that would have prevented thousands of Indiana students from taking advantage of the new law.  There are still a lot of legal steps that this case must go through before the legality of the law is settled, but this is a significant first victory for Indiana students.

Colorado. While Indiana may be the most sweeping statewide choice plan, this Colorado school district took to choice on its own initiative.  Douglas County Public Schools offered up to 500 students the ability to attend numerous private schools.  Again, however, the program was immediately challenged as unconstitutional under the Colorado constitution.  In Colorado, however, the judge issued a permanent injunction preventing the students from attending the private schools.  Of course, the final decision on this case is also years away, but this is certainly a setback to proponents of choice in education.  

Wisconsin. In my home state, Governor Walker recently signed into law a bill that significantly expands the state's school choice program.  Moreover, the Wisconsin Supreme Court has already ruled that school choice in Wisconsin does not offend the state's constitution.  Accordingly, there are, to the best of my knowledge, no pending lawsuits concerning this most recent expansion.  Not to be deterred, opponents of choice in education have adopted "alternative" methods for challenging the Wisconsin program:


PLF will continue to monitor the Indiana and Colorado cases as they move forward through the appeals process.  As for Wisconsin … godspeed.