Lawsuit challenges Indiana voucher law

Judges have already blocked the implementation of anti-abortion and anti-immigrant laws approved this spring by the Indiana legislature. Will the school voucher law be next? We could find out soon.

Twelve Indiana citizens sued Friday in Marion County to challenge the voucher law, which Gov. Mitch Daniels, state Superintendent Tony Bennett and Republican legislators rammed through the legislative process despite no evidence of broad support. The complaint may be spearheaded by the Indiana State Teachers Association, but the plaintiffs are a diverse group: three clergymen, a couple of college professors, a school superintendent, a principal, teachers and parents whose kids attend both public and parochial schools.

They argue that the voucher program, which provides taxpayer funding for parents to transfer their children from public to private schools, including religious schools, violates three sections of the state constitution:

— Article 8, Section 1, which says the state must provide “a general and uniform system of Common Schools, wherein tuition shall be without charge, and equally open to all.”
— Article 1, Section 4, which says that “no person shall be compelled to attend, erect, or support, any place of worship, or to maintain any ministry, against his consent.”
— Article 1, Section 6, which adds that “no money shall be drawn from the treasury, for the benefit of any religious or theological institution.”

“This use of taxpayer funds is incompatible with the provisions of the Indiana Constitution to safeguard Indiana citizens’ freedom of conscience by ensuring that they are not compelled, through the taxes they pay, to support religious institutions, ministries, and places of worship against their consent,” the lawsuit states. “And it is contrary to the Constitution’s directive that the General Assembly provide for the education of Indiana children through ‘a general and uniform system of Common Schools.’”

A 40-page legal brief, filed with the lawsuit, fleshes out the argument and seeks a preliminary injunction to bar the voucher law from taking effect.

On the surface, the second and third arguments would seem almost a slam dunk. Continue reading

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Election is over, and it’s payback time

The week after an election is probably a good time to recall the immortal words of Henry Adams, the American historian and diarist: “Politics, as a practice, whatever its professions, has always been the systematic organization of hatreds.”

In other words, if you backed the wrong side last week, get ready to duck.

Take a look at the money disbursed this election season by the Indiana Political Action Committee for Education, the political arm of the Indiana State Teachers Association. It spent close to $1 million by Oct. 9, most of it in contributions of as much as $50,000 to Democratic legislative candidates.

But most of those candidates lost. Republicans won control of the Indiana House by a 59-41 margin. In the state Senate, the margin is so lopsided that the handful of Democrats don’t even need to show up for Republicans to do business.

Conveniently enough, any hypothetical payback of the ISTA would align nicely with the Republican agenda of weakening the ability of teachers’ unions to block reforms such as merit pay and the gutting of tenure protections. Continue reading