Marion Superior Court Judge Michael Keele declined to halt Indiana’s broad new school voucher program, saying the law was “religion-neutral” and likely to be upheld.
The measure passed this year by the Republican-dominated General Assembly and signed into law by GOP Gov. Mitch Daniels is the nation’s broadest private school voucher program. A group of teachers and religious leaders backed by the Indiana State Teachers Association is challenging it, claiming it violates the Indiana Constitution by providing public money to religious institutions.
However, in his ruling denying a temporary injunction, Judge Keele, a Republican, wrote the law “is religion-neutral and was enacted ‘for the benefit’ of students, not religious institutions or activities.”
“It permits taxpayer funds to be paid to religious schools only upon the private individual choices of parents,” Keele wrote in siding with the state.
Attorneys for the state argued that a temporary injunction could have forced students who received vouchers to leave their private schools just as the academic year was beginning and scramble to re-enroll in public schools.
They also contended the voucher system is legal because the state isn’t funding parochial schools directly. Instead, it gives scholarship vouchers to parents, who can choose which school to use them.