Contact: Roslyn Singer October 3, 2013
Director of Communications, OU Advocacy For immediate release
Today, the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America (OU), the nation’s largest Orthodox Jewish umbrella organization, commended the Arizona Court of Appeals for unanimously upholding the constitutionality of the Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) program.
ESAs are designed to support students with disabilities by providing funds directly to parents for educational purposes. Opponents of the ESA program claimed that it violated the Arizona Constitution by providing public support to private religious organizations. Since the money is spent at the discretion of parents and is not directed by the state, the court ruled that ESAs in no way promote or discriminate against any religious institution.
The Orthodox Union has long supported the view expressed in U.S. Supreme Court ruling Zelman v. Harris (2000) that educational programs that serve a valid secular purpose should not be excluded from receiving public funds, and that allowing parents to benefit from private school services does not constitute “advancing or inhibiting religion” by state governments. Tuesday’s ruling by the Arizona Court of Appeals will only strengthen parental involvement in student education and open the door for increased opportunity for disabled children.
“The Orthodox Union welcomes the latest affirmation of school choice. Providing educational opportunity to parents is among our highest priorities. Students whose needs are best served outside the public school system deserve fair treatment and equal opportunities,” said Maury Litwack, OU director of state political affairs and outreach.