A state district judge in Oklahoma has ruled that a private school voucher program just for students with disabilities is unconstitutional.
Reports by the Associated Press and Tulsa World say that Judge Rebecca Nightingale agreed with the school districts that the law violates an Oklahoma constitutional prohibition of public money being used directly or indirectly for any sectarian institution.
Two school districts sued parents of six children with disabilities last fall over the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarships program. The scholarship program, created in 2010, initially required districts to administer the vouchers. Several districts refused to do so, and they were sued by parents. The districts eventually countersued.
While several states have voucher programs just for students with disabilities—a strategy some school choice advocates push for as a gateway to other voucher programs—Oklahoma’s is one of just two that has faced legal challenges. Arizona’s is the other.
Tuesday’s ruling opens the door to an appeal to the Oklahoma Supreme Court. The parents’ attorney, Eric Baxter of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty in Washington, said he will file an appeal. He told the Tulsa World he will also file a motion for a stay to keep the law intact until the appeals process is completed—149 students use the vouchers now—and a final ruling is rendered.
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