Virtual Voices

A winning choice

Education

On the day of the NCAA men's basketball final, the Supreme Court handed down a decision that is likely to produce champions for generations to come.

By a 5-4 vote, the majority upheld an Arizona tax-credit program that, writes David Savage of the Los Angeles Times, gives taxpayers a "dollar-for-dollar tax credit, up to $500 per person or $1,000 for a couple, for those who donate to organizations that in turn pay tuition for students attending private and parochial schools." The minority contends this violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. The majority opinion, written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, maintains that since such donations are with pre-tax dollars, the government never has the money, and thus, "there is no such connection between dissenting taxpayer and alleged establishment."

The case is likely to provide a large new revenue stream for private religious schools, especially Catholic institutions like St. Anthony's Catholic High School in Jersey City, N.J., which was recently profiled on CBS's "60 Minutes." Not only does St. Anthony's produce top-notch basketball players, it also graduates students with academic credentials and character, thanks to a foundation based on strong religious principles.

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Proponents of school choice have been waiting for a ruling like this one. The next step should be court approval for school vouchers, which would allow parents complete freedom in choosing their child's school. If money cannot be prevented from going to private schools, students should not be prohibited from attending them simply because they can't afford it. With vouchers, students and their parents---not government---would decide which school offers the best education. Competition would improve the public schools or, like businesses that underperform, they would be forced to close.

Teachers' unions focused more on their members, defending underperforming teachers, rather than on children who were being denied their right to a good education, which, for the poor, was their ticket out of poverty.

The school choice movement sprung up and met with fierce resistance from the public school establishment and the politicians who benefited from their political contributions. Politicians who would never have defended the late Alabama Governor George Wallace, who barred the doors to the University of Alabama in 1963 to keep two African-American students from entering, now have no problem effectively standing in the door of failed public schools to keep minority students from leaving.

The Supreme Court's ruling, in its way, could be as significant as Brown v. Board of Education, which desegregated American public schools. This latest case, known as Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization v. Winn, is a win for students.

It's about time.

© 2011 Tribune Media Services Inc.

Cal Thomas
Cal Thomas

Cal, whose syndicated column appears on WORLD's website and in more than 500 newspapers, is a frequent contributor to WORLD's radio news magazine The World and Everything in It. Follow Cal on Twitter @CalThomas.

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