Posted on June 10, 1998 In Press Releases

The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, the nation’s largest Orthodox Jewish umbrella organization – through its Institute for Public Affairs, hailed the decision by the Supreme Court of the State of Wisconsin upholding a school choice program serving the city of Milwaukee.

Under the program, more than 1,500 students are receiving
vouchers worth up to $4,400 (half the state’s per pupil expenditure in the city) and using the vouchers to attend the schools of their choice – whether, public, private or parochial. The program had been challenged
as a violation of the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution and other state law provisions.

In a 4-2 decision, the court reversed a lower appellate court’s decision and held that Milwaukee’s program did not constitute an improper establishment of religion, nor violate any other relevant federal or state law. The court held that Milwaukee’s school choice program possessed a secular legislative purpose in seeking to defray the costs borne by the parents of school children; was structured in a manner that did not have the primary effect of advancing religion since it fell to parents to determine whether state funded vouchers were ultimately received by parochial schools; and did not raise the specter of excessive government entanglement with religion.

Nathan Diament, director of the UOJCA’s Institute for Public Affairs, which filed a “friend of the court” brief in the case issued the following statement after the decision was announced:

This is a historic moment in the effort to improve educational opportunity for all of America’s children. Programs such as Milwaukee’s “Parental Choice Program” are designed to provide parents with greater resources and control over the education that their children receive and
thereby provide children with a better chance at a better life.

For too long, opponents of school choice have been able to hide behind the bald assertion that these programs are an unconstitutional establishment of religion. We believe that today’s decision by Wisconsin’s highest court should put such claims to rest. We hope that today’s decision will
persuade opponents of school choice to stop tying these programs up in the courts with frivolous litigation and allow them to bring greater hope and opportunity to America’s school children; they deserve no less.