Voucher challenge comes up this week

Nov 20, 2012

The Indiana Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in a lawsuit challenging the state’s school voucher program Wednesday, but at least one analyst says the challenge is facing an uphill battle.

Earlier this year, Marion Superior Court Judge Michael Keele denied a school voucher challenge that was brought by teachers and parents and backed by the Indiana State Teachers Association.  The Supreme Court decided to take the case on appeal directly, rather than allowing the state Court of Appeals to hear it first. 

Indiana University law professor Joel Schumm says that only happens once or twice a year and signals the case’s importance.  But Schumm says it’s unlikely the ISTA’s challenge will succeed.

“You know, in recent years, the Major Moves legislation was found constitutional, the voter ID legislation was found constitutional,” Schumm said. “The Indiana Supreme Court generally defers to the legislature in making public policy unless it’s something that’s very clearly out of constitutional bounds.”

But state Superintendent-elect Glenda Ritz, who is one of the suit’s plaintiffs challenging the law, says certain provisions in the Indiana Constitution give this voucher lawsuit a better chance at success than suits in other states.

“I really firmly believe and our case is such that the constitution itself speaks to the actual use of the public dollars going to public schools,” Ritz said.

Ritz says she will remove herself as a plaintiff after Wednesday’s hearing so as to avoid a conflict of interest once she becomes state superintendent.