The Voucher System and the Establishment Clause

Essay by eleventhirteenHigh School, 12th grade December 2004

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Two clauses in the First Amendment guarantee freedom of religion. The two clauses are establishment and free exercise. The establishment clause prohibits the government from passing legislation to establish an official religion or preferring one religion to another. It also prohibits the government from giving tax money to parochial institutions. It enforces the separation of church and state. In the 2002 Zelman versus Simmons-Harris case involving the Cleveland City School District, the Supreme Court confirmed the constitutionality of school vouchers and permitted the existence of the Pilot Project Scholarship Program. Due to the inferior performance of those students and the choices of schools given to the parents, the school voucher program does not violate the establishment clause in the first amendment.

The school voucher program used government fund to provide about 3700 Cleveland City District students with money to attend other Cleveland schools. The parents have choices among all participating schools, both secular and religious.

The Supreme Court ruling reversed the decision made earlier by the Court of Appeals, which struck down the program because nearly all the families receiving the tax-supported state tuition scholarships chose to attend the schools affiliated with one particular religion. The Supreme Court majority said the parents have a sufficient range of choices among secular and religious schools and it is the personal choice of the parents as to where to send their children, therefore the Ohio's voucher plan does not violate the First Amendment prohibition against the establishment of religion.

The condition of the Cleveland City School District was severely in need of assistance. Statistics have shown that the performance of these students was below the minimum standard; their test scores are inferior to those of students in other districts. To solve such a problem promptly and efficiently, the school voucher program was...