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Lynn v. Sekulow

Barry, I don’t believe that school vouchers run afoul of the First Amendment, and neither does the Supreme Court.  In Zelman v. Simmons-Harris, a school voucher case, the Supreme Court explained that its Establishment Clause jurisprudence makes it clear that:

 

where a government aid program is neutral with respect to religion, and provides assistance directly to a broad class of citizens who, in turn, direct government aid to religious schools wholly as a result of their own genuine and independent private choice, the program is not readily subject to challenge under the Establishment Clause.

 

Even in the majority opinion in Locke v. Davey, which was joined by Justices Ginsburg, Stevens, Breyer, and Souter, the Court recognized that “[u]nder our Establishment Clause precedent, the link between government funds and religious training is broken by the independent and private choice of recipients.”

The D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program is just such a program.  It provides scholarships for low-income students to attend private K-12 schools in Washington, D.C.  As former D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams explained in his recent testimony before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, the program allows parents to “pick the best school for their child, something that more affluent families take for granted.” 

 

The D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program has not been, as you call it, “completely unsuccessful.”  Dr. Patrick Wolf, the principal investigator for the congressionally mandated study of the Program, testified before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs that “the program had a statistically significant positive impact on the test scores of students in reading.”  He further stated that, in his opinion, “by demonstrating statistically significant impacts overall in reading based on an experimental evaluation, the [D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program] has met a tough standard for efficacy in serving low-income inner-city students.” 

 

While students who previously attended struggling schools may not be showing improvement, The Washington Post reported the director of the institute that conducted the congressionally mandated study said “one possible explanation is that those children lagged far behind academically and had trouble adjusting to what may be a more demanding classroom.”

 

The public schools in D.C. are failing the District’s residents. Former D.C. Mayor Williams described the struggle access to “high-quality education” for every American child as the “last civil rights struggle.”  The D.C. Scholarship Opportunity Program provides low-income parents the choice to send their children to better schools with the hope of a brighter future.  You may call it “completely unsuccessful,” but these parents and the parent and students who testified before the Senate Committee would disagree. 

 

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