The Cleveland Scholarship and Tutoring Program, which began in 1996, provides up to $2,250 to the families of more than 4,000 poor, urban children. Parents can use the vouchers to send their children to other schools, and most choose religious schools. No suburban public schools participate in the program.
Solicitor General Theodore Olson encouraged the court to take the case. The high court's ruling will be the first on vouchers since 1973, when it struck down a New York program.
"If the court upholds [Cleveland's] program, it will vindicate at last the promise of equal educational opportunities," says Clint Bolick, vice president of the conservative Washington, D.C.-based Institute for Justice, which has represented some families in the program.
President Bush made vouchers a significant plank in his proposed education legislation, but this part of his reform package was excluded from the House and Senate versions (CT, Aug. 6). Proponents say vouchers allow parents more choices; opponents, such as the National Education Association, say they violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.
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