Implications of Judge Oliver's Ruling

Implications of Judge Oliver's Ruling
February 1, 2000

George A. Clowes

George Clowes is a Heartland senior fellow addressing education policy. He served as founding... (read full bio)



Judge Solomon Oliver Jr.’s December 20, 1999, ruling on the Cleveland Scholarship Program apparently would give public schools the power to void future voucher programs by choosing not to participate in them.

But it has also been suggested that Oliver's original injunction against the program might give parents a legal tool to raise questions about the overwhelmingly non-sectarian nature of public schools.

In his August 24, 1999, ruling, Oliver wrote, "The Cleveland Program does not make aid available without regard to the nature of the schools to be benefitted. The participating schools are overwhelmingly sectarian. This means that parents cannot make an educational choice without regard to whether the school is parochial or not. Therefore, the Cleveland Program has the primary effect of advancing religion."

The corollary of that argument would be the following:

The Cleveland Public School system does not make aid available without regard to the nature of the schools to be benefitted. The participating schools are exclusively secular. This means that parents cannot make an educational choice without regard to whether the school is secular or not. Therefore, the Cleveland Public School system has the primary effect of impeding religion.

George A. Clowes

George Clowes is a Heartland senior fellow addressing education policy. He served as founding... (read full bio)