27 Jun 2002 Vouchers Offer Hope to Black Families; Supreme Court Decision to Permit Choice in Areas with Failing Schools
“The Supreme Court’s decision on vouchers is a clarion call,” said Project 21 member Council Nedd. “This is an opportunity for parents to get their children out of substandard schools and be afforded an opportunity to truly learn.”
In its decision, the Court upheld the constitutionality of an existing voucher program in Cleveland, Ohio by overturning a lower court ruling that claimed the program was a violation of the Constitution’s guarantee of the separation of church and state. In his opinion, Chief Justice William Rehnquist wrote that the voucher program “is entirely neutral with respect to religion. It provides benefits directly to a wide spectrum of individuals, defined only by financial need and residence in a particular school district.”
The Cleveland program pays up to $2,250 a year for qualifying students ranging from kindergarten to 8th grade to cover tuition at public, private or parochial schools of their parents’ choice. In Cleveland, the average income for households receiving vouchers is $19,000 a year. Last year the Cleveland Public Schools – the only other option for poor households besides the voucher program – met only four of Ohio’s 27 performance standards and only graduated 36 percent of students out of the system.
Currently, only Cleveland, Milwaukee and the state of Florida have voucher programs that allow parents with children in poor-quality schools to enroll them in alternative institutions. According to Clint Bolick of the Institute for Justice: “This decision removes a major impediment to school choice legislation around the nation. At least half a dozen states… should see significant action.” In addition, the Bush Administration is promoting a $2,500 per child educational tax credit in its 2003 budget.
In an upcoming New Visions Comentary from Project 21, Research Associate Mary Katherine Ascik writes: “Black Americans won a victory… The Supreme Court’s decision gives black children the opportunity to escape from failing public schools to get the quality education they ought to be receiving.”
Project 21 has been a leading voice in the African-American community since 1992. For more information, contact Chris Burger or David Almasi at (202) 507-6398 or [email protected], or visit Project 21’s web site at http://www.project21.org/P21Index.html.