Voucher program for students with disabilities struck down

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A Tulsa District Judge ruled March 28 that an Oklahoma program that provides vouchers for students with disabilities to attend private schools violates the state constitution.

Desks in empty classroom

Vouchers for students with disabilities ruled unconstitutional

In a ruling issued from the bench, Judge Rebecca B. Nightingale said the program violates state prohibitions against allocating public money to private, sectarian institutions, according to an article in the Tulsa World. Passed by the state legislature in June 2010, the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarships for Students with Disabilities program is currently providing vouchers to 149 students at 40 schools, 38 of which are religious affiliated.

Eric Baxter, a lawyer with the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty who is defending the program, said the voucher does not violate any state prohibitions because it can be used to benefit a student’s educational opportunities at either religious or nonreligious institutions.

“My clients are very disappointed with the outcome of the case. They worked with the school districts for a long time and found they just didn’t have the resources,” Baxter, who is planning to appeal the case, told the Tulsa World article. “The state scholarship fund provided them an opportunity to find a school that could meet the needs of their children.”

A video from KOTV about the decision can be viewed here.