1:59 pm
Wed November 21, 2012

Indiana High Court Hears Challenge to Voucher Program

Indiana Supreme Court justices want to know whether the nation's largest school voucher program primarily benefits students and their parents or religious institutions.

The five justices prodded lawyers for both sides on that point today during a hearing on a constitutional challenge to the 2011 law under which more than 9,000 students have switched from public to private schools with help from state funds.

Supporters say the voucher system allows parents to send their children to private schools they otherwise couldn't afford. They say parents decide which schools receive public voucher money, not the state.

Attorney Thomas Fisher defended the voucher system before the court.

"We don’t have any direct aid at all," he said. "What we have is, again, parental choices with respect to scholarships that are offered on a religion-neutral basis."

But opponents say virtually all the voucher money goes to religious schools, and the system undermines public education.

"Here the state is directly paying for the teaching of religion and that’s what the tipping point is." said attorney John West, who argued on opponents' behalf.

The impact of the Indiana vouchers is being closed watched because they are available to middle class students. The program has been upheld by the lower courts.