Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Oklahoma Supreme Court Upholds Voucher Plan Over Blaine Amendment Objections

In Oliver v. Hofmeister, (OK Sup. Ct., Feb. 16, 2016), the Oklahoma Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the state's voucher program that permits children with disabilities to attend any private school of their choice to obtain special education services, whether the school is sectarian or non-sectarian.  The Court held that the program does not violate the "no aid" clause of Oklahoma's Constitution, Art. II, Sec. 5 (Oklahoma's Blaine Amendment), saying in part:
Because the parent receives and directs the funds to the private school, sectarian or non-sectarian, we are satisfied that the State is not actively involved in the adoption of sectarian principles or directing monetary support to a sectarian institution through this scholarship. When the scholarship payment is directed to a sectarian private school it is at the sole and independent choice and direction of the parent and not the State. The scholarship funded through the Act has no bearing on state control of churches. We are convinced that the scholarships funded by the Act have no adverse impact on the ability of churches to act independently of state control and to operate separately from the state.
Tulsa World, reporting on the decision, says that in 2014-15, 61% of the the $2.5 million total vouchers went to religious schools.