School Choice

A Flurry of Lawsuits Involving School Choice

Nothing sparks court challenges like trying to expand education options.



When a school choice law is passed, a school choice lawsuit follows – it's all but inevitable. I've counted at least a dozen school choice lawsuits over 11 programs in 2013. Here's the roundup:

Arizona: Niehaus v. Huppenthal

Program at issue: Empowerment Scholarship Accounts

Type: Education Savings Accounts

Available to: Students with special needs, assigned to failing schools, in military families, in foster care or in adoptive families

Status: A state appeals court ruled in favor of education savings accounts, finding them distinct from a voucher program the state Supreme Court struck down in 2009. Interested parties are waiting to hear whether the state's high court will hear the case.

 Oklahoma: Jenks v. Spry, Kimery v. Broken Arrow Public Schools, Oliver v. Barresi

Program at issue: Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarships for Students with Disabilities

Type: Voucher

Available to: Students with special needs

Status: In November 2012 the state Supreme Court ruled in favor of the program — sort of. The school districts did not have standing to bring the case, it said. In October 2013, other plaintiffs — citizen taxpayers, almost all affiliated with the public school system — filed suit against the state. When they finish filing their paperwork, the state can file its brief and the judge can set a hearing date.

Alabama: Boyd v. Magee

Program at issue: Alabama Accountability Act

Type: Tax-credit scholarships, tax credits or rebates.

Available to: Tax-credit scholarships are available to low-income students; tax credits or rebates are available to families transferring children from a failing public school to a non-failing public school or an accredited private school.

Status: Two suits by the teachers union were thrown out; parties interested in the third suit are awaiting a hearing date.

Washington: League of Women Voters of Washington et al v. State

Program at issue: Public charter schools

Type: Public school choice

Available to: All Washington students

Status: In December, a Superior Court judge struck down part of the law, but most of it was upheld and charter applications are moving along as planned. The plaintiff coalition has said it will likely appeal, possibly bypassing the appeals court and heading straight to the state Supreme Court. The plaintiffs have until early January to file.

North Carolina: Hart v. North Carolina

Program at issue: Opportunity Scholarship Program

Type: Voucher

Available to: Low-income families

Status: Briefs have been filed, but a hearing date has not yet been set.

Indiana: Teresa Meredith, et al, v. Mitch Daniels, et al

Program at issue: Choice Scholarship Program

Type: Voucher

Available to: Low-income families

Status: Completed. In March, the state's high court ruled unanimously the program does not violate the state's constitution.

New Hampshire: Duncan v. State of New Hampshire

Program at issue: School Choice Scholarship Program

Type: Tax-credit scholarships

Available to: Low-income families, for private schools or homeschooling

Status: In June, a Superior Court struck down part of the law, ruling scholarship money could not go to religious schools, but it could go to secular private schools, out-of-district public schools or homeschooling. Supporters and opponents of school choice appealed the decision. The state Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case and will set a date after all the legal briefs are filed.

Douglas County, Colorado: Larue v. Colorado Board of Education

Program at issue: Choice Scholarship Pilot Program

Type: Voucher

Available to: Residents of Douglas County

Status: In February, a state appeals court upheld the program. The case was further appealed, and the state Supreme Court is being briefed.

Louisiana: Louisiana Federation of Teachers, et al, v. State of Louisiana, et al

Program at issue: Student Scholarships for Educational Excellence Program

Type: Voucher

Available to: Low-income families assigned to schools receiving C, D, or F letter grades or in a recovery school district.

Status: Completed. The state Supreme Court ruled in May the program could not be funded the way the law had been written, but did not rule on whether the law was constitutional if it were funded in a different way. In June, state lawmakers passed a budget that would fund the program through a different avenue.

Louisiana: Brumfield v. Dodd

Program at issue: Student Scholarships for Educational Excellence Program

Type: Voucher

Available to: Low-income families assigned to schools receiving C, D, or F letter grades or in a recovery school district.

Status: The U.S. Department of Justice alleged the program impeded the process of desegregation, which some Louisiana schools have been at for decades. A federal judge ruled that the federal department can oversee the program but cannot hamper it. Oversight details are slated to be worked out in January. Attorneys representing families have appealed.

This article originally appeared at

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  1. Available to: Students with special needs, assigned to failing schools, in military families, in foster care or in adoptive families

    Why not available to every student?

    1. Patience.
      It’s the camel’s nose under the tent flap. It takes a while for the rest of the camel to get in.

    2. AZ is a ballot initiative state. Broad school choice programs tend to get recalled in these states. You have to start small with student population groups that would seem more needy. AZ military kids potentially have disrupted homes with deployed parents and more new school starts from changing parental assignments. Both of these increase the risk of reduced school performance. All the more important to have these kids in schools that match their learning needs and style, hence school choice. Comes across as way mean to try to recall that.

  2. Available to: Students with special needs, assigned to failing schools, in military families, in foster care or in adoptive families

    One of these is not like the other. Fuck, the hero worship of the military knows no bounds.

    1. I suppose you could argue that army brats might have some needs that students who are going to stay in one school district the entire 12 years don’t, but yeah, why single them out?

      1. Why single them out? Because we can get away with it, and any child we can give an advantage to, we should? The Public School system is a massive systemic failure, and the wholesale reform needed has proven to be political poison. So we need to do it retail.

    2. The point is to slowly but surely carve out groups of students without triggering the big Ed blob that will then trigger a ballot initiative-which they tend to win. Ed reform/parent choice/school choice is much further along here than many states. At some point, hopefully soon, enough kids will be in choice programs (public charters, ESA, etc.) that the blob no longer has superiority at the ballot box.

  3. I once had a really confusing conversation with a libtard about school choice. It was confusing because the libtard couldn’t comprehend the word “choice” being used outside the context of abortion.

    1. Might have been more that they didn’t want to accept the implication that they weren’t really in favor of people having choices except when it comes to killing fetuses.

      1. Oh they favor people having choices. As long as the choices are made for them by wise people in government.

        1. And as long as they are confident that people will make those choices the way they want them made.

          I am not even sure they believe in choice in any area. Sure, they claim to love “choice” in abortion, but I bet they would admit that forced abortions are okay under the right circumstances, you know if the kid is retarded or unfit or to keep the population down in the name of saving the Earth Goddess.

          Mostly they are about “choice” in abortion as a way to stick it to their political enemies not out of any real belief in choice.

        2. I like to use the “our bodies, our choices” slogan regarding Hooters employees or prostitutes.

          1. +100. Throw in Mormon and Evangelical women who have lots of kids while you are at it.

        3. Oh they favor people having choices. As long as the choices are made for them by wise people in government.

          I’ll quote Laqueesha from that Zach Weissmuller “How pro-choice are Democrats” video at the DNC. “You only have the freedom to make the right choice.”

    2. Hey, sarcasmic, if you *really* want to blow their minds about choice: Get ’em to print CHOICE on a piece of paper, turn it upside down, and look at it in a mirror.

    3. Americans don’t deserve freedom Sarcasmic. Don’t you know that? You stupid racist tea bagger.

  4. Student Scholarships for Educational Excellence Program [is for] Low-income families assigned to schools receiving C, D, or F letter grades or in a recovery school district. The U.S. Department of Justice alleged the program impeded the process of desegregation

    “Nation of cowards!”

  5. Education is exactly the type of individualized decision that bureaucracies cannot handle. How you educate the child of Salvadorian immigrants who barely speak or can’t speak English is completely different from how you educate the child of two American born PHDs. If you try to educate them both the same way, you end up screwing one or both of them because their needs are completely incomparable. Bureaucracies can’t deal with those sorts of fine distinctions very well. Bureaucracies are best at uniformity. When you realize that, it is not surprising at all that homogenous countries like Finland and Japan excel with big, centralized education systems. Since the population is very homogeneous, uniform solutions work well. But the US is not Finland and it never will be. When the US public education system works best, it is when there is local control and when people can self segregate and parents can have the maximum choice so that the child of the PHDs and the child of immigrants who first needs to learn English end up in places that suit their needs not the needs and fantasizes of bureaucrats.

    1. My lib friends believe that “economies of scale” and “the law of averages” will ensure that Education will be, on average, better for everyone if it is 100% standardized…

      1. That is because they have no clue how bureaucracies actually work and their understanding of education amounts to a collection of superstitions and fantasies.

        Think about pre-K education. There has never been a single study that has shown any long term benefit to pre-K education. What happens is a few kids benefit at first but that benefit quickly fades and by second or third grade the kid is exactly where kids of similar intelligence and backgrounds who didn’t get pre-K are. But liberals believe in pre-K like Christian Scientists believe in prayer. No amount of evidence to the contrary will debase them of their faith in it. The new mayor of New York want to tax anyone making a decent salary to pay for “universal pre-K education”. He would be better off sacrificing a fatted calf in hopes of bringing the children of New York good fortune. It wouldn’t be any less effective and it would cost a lot less.

        1. Anyone who questions pre-K education hates teachers and wants them to be unemployed. Why do you hate teachers?

          1. Liberals really are incapable of rejecting a solution that is intuitively obvious and has emotional appeal. It sounds so good to say that the solution to our education problems is to get kids in school and learning as early as possible. In reality it is of course complete bunk. Believing in preK education is a good example of RC’s law that the less you know about something the easier it seems.

            1. If they feel it to be true, no amount of facts, reason or logic will sway them.

              1. If they don’t arrive at their position by facts, reason or logic, none of those things can be used to sway them out of that position. This is essentially why 90% of the population is head-up-their-ass stupid with their opinions on any given issue.

      2. “My lib friends believe that “economies of scale” and “the law of averages” will ensure that Education will be, on average, better for everyone if it is 100% standardized…”

        So, they are in favor of large class sizes and reducing the teaching staff?

    2. John–

      Your argument does have a certain logic. But school choice arguments should be based upon individual rights rather than utilitarianism. The dysfunction of public schools makes it an easy target for reform. It is best to use principled arguments based upon individual rights to win these battles. Supporters of these fights that are not familiar with these principled arguments will learn from them. It will only help the liberty movement.

      1. There is no reason not to use both. The argument that people should have a right to use their tax money to attend the school of their choice is in no way incompatible with my argument above. Indeed, my argument dove tails nicely the individual rights argument. Not only is it someone’s right to control the education of their children but also depriving them of that right causes real harm.

        1. Okay, but the lessen is principled is also practical. Utilitarianism is sometimes associated with unprincipled pragmatism. Pragmatism is the underlying philosophy killing this country.

          1. You have to make both. Libertarians make a mistake by only making the principled argument. The problem with ceding the practical is that it allows your opponents to create the false dilemma of “either punishing your kids or giving a little bit on your principles”. They shouldn’t be allowed to do that so easily.

          2. Libertarians and all classical liberals should constantly remind the world that freedom works.

      2. Utilitarians do not accept that individual rights exist, so such arguments will have no effect.

        1. To them I would say; so if I murder you and your entire family the only thing ‘wrong’ with that is that you’d prefer that I didn’t. Meaning there is no more moral reason for me to not murder your family than there is for me not to poop on your lawn.

          Denying the existence of rights essentially means that you have no moral basis to not be murdered, among other things.

        2. “Utilitarians do not accept that individual rights exist”

          Then I’d suggest to a strong supporter of utilitarian ideas, that killing him and harvesting his organs to allow say 5 people to live, would be more utilitarian than allowing him to live.

  6. Monopolies are evil unless they’re government-sector monopolies, at which point they suddenly, magically become virtuous.

    1. Governments are already perfect and thus cannot benefit from competition.

      1. There’s also the same cognitive dissonance when it comes to the price of gasoline. $6/gallon (or whatever arbitrarily high price you pick) is evil if the money goes to the companies that extract thand refine the fuel, but virtuous if it goes to the government in the form of gas taxes.

        1. Raising the price of gas by taxing it will totally get people to use less gas but raising the price of labor via the minimum wage will have no effect on the demand for labor.

          The laws of supply and demand are only valid when the result fits the narrative.

    2. Oh yeah? Well, take these things where government has a monopoly, and tell me who will do it if government does not. And be specific. I want to know exactly who will do it. I want names. You can’t tell me, can you. Well that just proves that if government doesn’t do it, no one will.

      1. Private schools will provide education, and governemnt has a monopoly on education funding (taking it from you regardless of your desires).

        The USPS has a monopoly on mail delivery in the US, but I bet you FedEx, UPS and others would like the job as well.

        Gated communities provide their own security, though are forced to hand over criminals/suspects they detain, to the government. This in spite of the fact that the government has a monopoly on enforcing the laws, and the police already protect gated communities for free.

  7. Statist leave those kids alone!

  8. I wish someone would sue the government regarding its monopoly and delivery of education, and a court that would find it unconstitutional. First for the federal government, then for state and local governments as well.

    We don’t want the government providing our food, clothing, shelter, and transportation. There isn’t a good reason for it providing schools/education either.

  9. Thank you very much

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