Indiana judge strikes down injunction that aimed to halt state’s school voucher program
School voucher opponents in Indiana were dealt a massive setback to overturning the state’s recently passed Indiana Choice Scholarship Program (CSP) when a county judge ruled down Monday an injunction to prevent the law from going into effect.
Marion County Judge Michael Keele ruled the plaintiffs insufficiently demonstrated “a likelihood of success on the merits,” a key requisite before any case can go to trial.
The July 1 suit was filed by teachers unions and religious groups wary the voucher program, the most expansive in the country, violates the state constitution’s restrictions on public spending for faith-based organizations. The plaintiffs wrote in a brief 90 percent of private schools that would receive taxpayer dollars to enroll K-12 students are affiliated with religious institutions. A public announcement by the Indiana State Teachers Association (ISTA) following the ruling put the number at 97 percent.
In a press release, Dr. Brenda Pike, executive director of ISTA said, “We will take a little time to discuss the next steps we will take in this process. It’s clear, despite this single ruling, that this voucher program clearly violates provisions of the Indiana Constitution.”
According to the July 1 brief, of the 353 private schools that are accredited and could participate in the voucher program, 185 are Catholic. With the exception of three Muslim and Jewish academies, the remaining religious institutions are of a Christian denomination.
A spokesperson for the union told The American Independent in a previous interview the school voucher program would drain $65 million from public school state coffers, a significant amount he said on top of the $600 million in education budget cuts supported by Gov. Mitch Daniels that were passed in the last two years.
By its third year, 60 percent of Indiana students will be eligible to participate in CSP. That estimate is based on the income restrictions established by the law, stipulating only students of families earning below $62,000 can participate.
Other complaints in the suit included the provision state education officials cannot regulate the curriculum, staffing or teaching requirements of schools accepting CSP students.