In a victory for parents, children, and for education as a whole, the U.S. Supreme Court has left intact the state of Arizona’s 14-year old individual tax credit provision that allows a $500 contribution to be made to private schools – including religious schools. In a 5-4 decision, the court found that the plaintiffs lacked legal “standing” to challenge the tax-credit provision.
The tax-credit was designed to help parents pay for education outside the publicly-funded education system. This allows for parents who are footing the entire bill for their child’s education to be compensated in a small way and makes a major contribution to the understanding that parent’s have a choice in their child’s education.
Opponents of the tax credit insisted that helping in any way to pay for a private education – particularly to a religious school – violates the First Amendment and that they as citizens were being harmed by being forced to, in effect, contribute to religious institutions.
Attorneys defending the system had counter-argued that since the law only allows taxpayers to direct their own tax dollars to religious schools, the plaintiffs lacked the standing to sue because their tax payments were not being used. The court ruled that the defendants needed to show specific individual harm.
Alliance Defense Fund attorney, David Cortman said in a statement: “Parents should be able to choose what’s best for their own children. This ruling empowers parents to do just that.” He continued: “The ACLU failed in its attempt to eliminate school choice for hundreds of thousands of students nationwide and also failed to demonstrate that it had any constitutional basis for its clients to file suit in the first place.”
The ACLU sees it quite differently. ACLU Legal Director, Steven Shapiro: “Today’s decision ignores precedent, defies logic and undermines the role of the courts in preserving the core constitution principle that government may not subsidize religion.”
The Arizona Tax credit program is the third-largest school choice program in the country and the nation’s oldest tax credit program. This is an important victory for school choice programs around the country. United Families International offers congratulations to all involved.