'Zona fide

This fall, the Supreme Court will consider the constitutionality of Arizona’s thirteen-year-old tax credit scholarship program, under which credits (against state taxes) can be taken by  those who donate to special “school tuition organizations” (STOs); these orgs then award scholarships for students to attend private schools of their choice. The problem, allege the plaintiffs, is that most of the STOs award scholarships to religious schools—in some cases, specific religious schools—or to students of a certain religion or gender (e.g., to single sex schools). Nor does the AZ law require that recipients be needy and/or underserved by the public school system (as does the Ohio voucher program that was okayed in another Supreme Court case, Zelman.) The Ninth Circuit Court ruled against the program on the grounds that it “lacks religious neutrality and true private choice in making scholarships available to parents.” So SCOTUS again gets to ponder: Is the purpose of vouchers/tax credits simply to give parents more choices or to help woefully underserved students get a better education? Dare we suggest that it might be both?

U.S. Supreme Court to weigh Arizona’s tax credit law,” by Pat Kossan and Ronald J. Hansen, The Arizona Republic, May 25, 2010