Washington, D.C. (November 2, 2010) – School choice will again take center stage in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, November 3, at 10 AM EDT as the constitutionality of a scholarship tax credit program in Arizona is argued before the U.S. Supreme Court.
The case, Winn v. Garriott, focuses on Arizona’s Individual School Tuition Organization Tax Credit Program, which allows individuals to claim tax credits for making contributions to nonprofit organizations that provide private school K-12 scholarships to predominantly disadvantaged children.
The program was first challenged on constitutional grounds by a variety of special-interest groups more than a decade ago and was upheld by the Arizona Supreme Court in 1997. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) then challenged it again, and finally found a receptive forum in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which struck it down. Nine states and a multitude of civic organizations, including the American Federation for Children, filed amicus briefs in favor of the program earlier this year, resulting in the high court’s decision to hear arguments on Wednesday.
Advocates will forcefully argue that the program allows for a true open market of parental choices in education consistent with the high court’s ruling in Zelman v. Simmons-Harris, which upheld the Constitutionality of appropriately-designed school choice programs. The program benefits nearly 30,000 primarily-disadvantaged children attending more than 375 schools via scholarships from 54 School Tuition Organizations.
“This lawsuit should not be a close call, given that the U.S. Supreme Court consistently has upheld parental choice programs,” said Clint Bolick, director of the Scharf-Norton Center for Constitutional Litigation at the Goldwater Institute and one of the nation’s leading defenders of parental choice. “A victory in this case will be a victory for schoolchildren across the nation.”
An October 2010 study demonstrated that the program primarily benefited low-and-middle income families, and that the program dramatically expanded the ability of parents to select the best schools for their children-public, private, independent, or religious.
One of those parents is Scott Collins of Gilbert, Arizona. After Collins’ wife, Sheri, died of a rare type of cancer, Collins-who was beset by medical bills-was faced with the prospect of removing four of his five children from the best school they had ever attended. The Individual School Tuition Organization Tax Credit Program, and the scholarship organization TOPS for Kids, provided scholarships for his children.
“If it was not for TOPS, the kids would not have had a chance at all to attend a school with great teachers who care for the kids and will help each of them when they need special attention,” Collins said. “I would recommend TOPS as well because with my low income and trying to provide ‘alone’ for my family now, without Sheri’s income coming in, they would not have this chance.”
“If the U.S. Supreme Court upholds the Tuition Tax Credit, as I believe they will, the long-fought battle over who decides what academic and spiritual tenets will be placed in the minds and souls of America’s children will make a pivotal and historic turn toward Mom and Dad,” said U.S. Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ). “It will be a very good day for America and her future generations.”
The U.S. Solicitor General and the Attorney General of Arizona will speak in support of the program before the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday. The case has, to this point, been argued on behalf of children participating in the program by the Institute for Justice (IJ), a national legal organization protecting and defending school choice programs.
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For more information, please visit www.FederationForChildren.org
Andrew Campanella, email@example.com, 202-276-1303