While most Americans are transfixed by the gay marriage arguments being made before the SCOTUS this week, other issues of national importance involving courts (lower, in this case) are taking place:
INDIANAPOLIS – The Indiana Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld the nation’s broadest school voucher program in a ruling supporters say could set a national precedent as other states look to build or expand programs that use public money to allow students to attend private schools.
The state’s highest court unanimously upheld a 2011 law providing vouchers for low- and middle-income families and cleared the way for an expansion being debated in the Indiana Statehouse. But more importantly, it could settle the case law for other states where voucher programs face legal challenges, supporters contend.
“I think it will be incredibly influential,” said Bert Gall, senior attorney for the Washington-based Institute for Justice, who helped defend the Indiana law.
The Indiana voucher program, passed by the Legislature in 2011, is the most sweeping in the nation and the biggest test yet of the conservative Republican idea that giving families choice creates a greater incentive for public schools to improve. Unlike voucher programs in other states, which are limited to poor families and failing school districts, the Indiana program is open to a much broader range of people, including parents with household incomes of up to nearly $64,000 for a family of four.
Doesn’t sound like this will go beyond Indiana courts, either:
Opponents downplayed Tuesday’s ruling. Brenda Pike, executive director of the Indiana State Teachers Association and a lead plaintiff in the case, said the group now considers vouchers settled law in Indiana. But, she added, Indiana’s borders are where the ruling’s impact ends.
“This was a specific Indiana constitutional law question,” Pike said. “We went through the court system in Indiana, not any federal court system.”
Lawyers for national groups who argued against the Indiana law deferred questions to ISTA on Tuesday.
Congrats, Indiana! Now that’s what I call forward.