Phoenix—The Goldwater Institute announced it will intervene in a lawsuit that was filed today, Niehaus v. Huppenthal, challenging Arizona’s recently enacted “empowerment scholarship accounts.” The lawsuit was filed by the Arizona School Boards Association and the Arizona Education Association, among others.
Goldwater Institute research formed the creation of the empowerment scholarship accounts, which make state education funds portable and available to special needs students whose parents withdraw them from public schools in search of a school that best meets their child’s needs. The accounts may be used for tutoring, distance learning, private school tuition, community college tuition, or other educational purposes. The Institute champions expansion of empowerment scholarship accounts to all Arizona schoolchildren.
“These scholarship accounts allow parents to direct their children’s education funds in the way that best meets their individual needs,” said Clint Bolick, the Goldwater Institute’s litigation director. Bolick was lead attorney for parents in Zelman v. Simmons-Harris in 2002, in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that school vouchers were constitutional, and Kotterman v. Killian in 1997, in which the Arizona Supreme Court upheld private school scholarship tax credits under the Arizona Constitution.
In 2009, the Arizona Supreme Court struck down school vouchers for special needs children under the state constitution’s ban on aid for religious or private schools. But Bolick says this program is different because the funds can be used for a variety of educational purposes, not simply private school tuition.
Earlier this year, Bolick sent a letter to Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne outlining initial legal arguments that will be used to uphold the program.
The Institute for Justice also plans to intervene, alongside the Goldwater Institute’s Scharf-Norton Center for Constitutional Litigation, to defend the program on behalf of parents of special needs children.
The Goldwater Institute is an independent government watchdog supported by people committed to expanding free enterprise and liberty.