The Arizona State Court of Appeals (a level junior only to the State’s Supreme Court), Division One, ruled on a suit against that state’s creation of an education savings account (officially, Empowerment Scholarship Account) for grades K-12. The Arizona ESA is designed to provide state funds to help parents send their children to schools of the parents’ choice (and away from failing schools), which might have included church schools. The state had been sued on that last basis—the potential for state funds to be used in a religious environment.
The Appeals Court, politely, waved the BS flag at the suit:
The ESA does not result in an appropriation of public money to encourage the preference of one religion over another, or religion per se over no religion. Any aid to religious schools would be a result of the genuine and independent private choices of the parents. The parents are given numerous ways in which they can educate their children suited to the needs of each child with no preference given to religious or nonreligious schools or programs. Parents are required only to educate their children in the areas of reading, grammar, mathematics, social studies, and science.
The ESA is neutral in all respects toward religion and directs aid to a broad class of individuals defined without reference to religion. The ESA is a system of private choice that does not have the effect of advancing religion. Where ESA funds are spent depends solely upon how parents choose to educate their children. Eligible school children may choose to remain in public school, attend a religious school, or a nonreligious private school. They may also use the funds for educational therapies, tutoring services, online learning programs and other curricula, or even at a postsecondary institution. We therefore concur with the trial court that the ESA does not violate the Religion Clause.
Attorney General Eric Holder might want to keep this in mind as he sues Louisiana over that State’s use of state funds to subsidize parent choice. The Louisiana case isn’t about separate of church and state, but it is, as was the Arizona case, very much about parents’ choice of schools for their children.
“Parents are required only to educate their children in the areas of reading, grammar, mathematics, social studies, and science.” They can’t do that much when their children are trapped in failed schools. Holder needs to get out of the way; the only serious outcome of his winning his suit is to keep Louisiana’s children trapped in that state’s failed public schools and so trapped in poverty.
Failed education is the first, and most important, link in the cycle of poverty. By functionally denying children an education, Holder will be making it extremely likely that his victims grow up into either of two adult cycles of poverty: poverty and crime, or poverty and government dependence.