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Topic: Milwaukee Voucher Case
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Jerry P. Becker

Posts: 16,576
Registered: 12/3/04
Milwaukee Voucher Case
Posted: Jan 20, 1999 11:48 PM
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From Advocate, Illinois Education Association, New Edition, December
1998/January 1999, Volume 1, Issue No. 4, p. 7

U.S. High Court Fails to Hear Milwaukee Voucher Case

Washington, D.C. -- The U.S. Supreme Court in November decided not to
review a controversial ruling by the Wisconsin Supreme Court allowing
public tax dollars to be used for vouchers for religious schools in

The voucher program has already stripped the Milwaukee public schools of
millions of dollars of state aid, and the city is now poised to enact a
"voucher tax" in the form of increased property taxes to avoid curriculum
cuts and larger classes in the city's public schools.

NEA President Bob Chase expressed disappointment over the high court's
decision, but he noted it is neither a decision to uphold nor reject the
Milwaukee voucher law and does not have "precedential value" outside of

The Wisconsin case is the first of its kind to reach the nation's Supreme
Court, but it probably won't be the last. High courts in at least four
other states - including a closely watched test case involving Cleveland,
Ohio, schools - are currently examining the constitutionality of voucher

"It is unfortunate Wisconsin children must wait for another case to
vindicate their First Amendment rights," says Terry Craney, president of
the NEA's Wisconsin affiliate. "We believe Wisconsin children and the
Constitution would have been served by the court agreeing to hear this
matter. This would have been an excellent case to once and for all decide
the future of vouchers for religious education."

In Illinois, IEA has turned back repeated legislative efforts to adopt
voucher laws, but, notes IEA President Bob Haisman, "the voucher issue will
continue to come up. We must remain forever on guard."

NEA President Chase had hoped the U.S. Supreme Court would review the
Milwaukee case.

"Every day," Chase points out, "the voucher plan does more damage to the
Milwaukee public schools, and the city's taxpayers are paying the tab."

Chase noted that this year alone, the city's schools will lose $25 million
in taxpayer dollars to private and religious schools.

"Each of the city's 5,902 voucher students takes $4, 894 in state aid from
the city's schools -- even though only 1,379 of them ever previously
attended Milwaukee's public schools," sums up Chase. "That's just plain
wrong, and it punishes every student attending the public schools."

Last June, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled 4-2 in Jackson v. Benson that
Milwaukee's voucher program - expanded in 1995 to include religious schools
- did not violate the state or U.S. constitutions because it does not
promote religion.

The NEA and its affiliates filed the primary legal challenge to the
Milwaukee voucher program.


Jerry P. Becker
Dept. of Curriculum & Instruction
Southern Illinois University
Carbondale, IL 62901-4610 USA
Fax: (618)453-4244
Phone: (618)453-4241 (office)

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