The Ohio Vouchers Program is a school voucher program in which students are selected through a lottery process from the Cleveland City School District. The program selects students based on financial need. These vouchers or tuition grants allow parents the “choice” to use them in private secular or religious schools within the Cleveland district and any districts that have registered with the Ohio Vouchers Program. Depending on the income level of each student, a student can receive vouchers that cover 90% of a school’s tuition. But the overall limit that a student may receive is $2,500. Ohio Revised Code states the guidelines of the program in statute § 3313.974 to 3313.979.
The Ohio Vouchers program was created to respond to the failing of Cleveland’s public school system. With this program however, the vouchers are not supporting students to attend public school in the Cleveland school district. The surrounding school districts can accept the vouchers but have not done so since the program has started. This program is hurting the Cleveland public school system by diverting money that should be going to improve public schools but instead being put in private schools which are largely religious schools. The program continues to hurt not only the public school district but also the parents of the students who try to take advantage of the program. Parents are left with no alternative than to choose a nonpublic school and even then a religiously private school.
Of the non-public schools that participate in the Ohio vouchers program, 82% are religious schools. Almost 88% to 96% of the student who participated in the program have enrolled or is attending a religious school. So the government funds that are being distributed through this program are going directly to these religious schools. The State of Ohio sends the money by check to the schools, in which the parents must come in person to endorse the check to the school. The checks come and go directly to the schools, and parents do not receive a say in how it should be used. The religious schools of course will use these funds to buy supplies such as bibles, religious icons, and anything that furthers the religious ideology of that school.
Students within these religious schools do receive religious instruction even though the student may be of a different faith. Students do learn about religious beliefs and do observe worship. They participate in a wide array of religious activities and this is funded by the direct and unrestricted payments made to the school by the State of Ohio. With the incentives of the program benefiting mostly religious schools than secular, the program is very much slanted to push religious education. This places parents with a difficult choice in which they do not have much choice in where they can send their child.
Summary of Argument
The Ohio Voucher Program violates the Establishment Clause by allowing direct, unrestricted funds to be...