Here’s something you don’t hear every day: a legal victory has been granted
to parents and ordinary taxpayers who were in a battle over education funding.
What’s more, they defeated the mighty (and perennially belligerent) ACLU.

The U.S. Supreme Court
handed down a huge victory for proponents of parental choice in education
Monday. The high court agreed 5–4 with the arguments of Alliance
Defense Fund attorneys and dismissed an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit
against an Arizona
program that promotes school choice. The program, like others across the
country, allows state residents to claim a tax credit for donations to private
organizations that provide scholarships to private schools.

The court dismissed the
suit saying that the ACLU’s clients–taxpayers who don’t like the
program–didn’t have any legal standing to sue over someone else’s private
donations. ADF represented the only party to make this argument to the
court.  The decision creates a national precedent that will prevent
similar legal attacks in the future.
 

The ACLU has pulled bizarre stunts in the past, but this one is
almost breathtaking in its effrontery. This battle wasn’t even about allocation
of current state educational funding. It was about the ACLU trying to persuade the
courts to interfere with the private donations of private citizens. One searches
for adequate adjectives to describe their overreaching arrogance, but
invariably comes up short.

The majority decision came down firmly on the side of parental
choice, which no doubt sends chills down the spine of the average union/educational
bureaucrat. The ACLU is all for “civil liberties”, as long as those liberties
don’t contradict their own radical agenda.
 

“Parents should be able
to choose what’s best for their own children. This ruling empowers parents
to do just that,” said ADF Senior Counsel David Cortman. “Parents should
decide what schools their children attend and where their money goes. The
ACLU failed in its attempt to eliminate school choice for hundreds of thousands
of students nationwide and also failed to demonstrate that it had any
constitutional basis for its clients to file suit in the first place.”

ADF represents one of many (over fifty) non-profit corporations
whose function is to distribute private donations (in the form of scholarships)
to students attending hundreds of private schools throughout Arizona. 

ADF argued that the
Arizona program involves individual, private choices and funding–not
government action or money–and pointed out that the program saves the state
money and relieves burdens on overcrowded public schools.

Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the majority:

Respondents’ contrary
position assumes that income should be treated as if it were government
property even if it has not come into the tax collector’s hands. That premise
finds no basis in standing jurisprudence. Private bank accounts cannot be
equated with the Arizona
State Treasury.

The court’s reasoning
is sound,” Cortman explained. “The government does not own 100 percent of
every American’s paycheck. The donations are private money, not government
money.”

The ACLU, not to mention various other unions, somehow labour (no
pun intended) under the delusion that they have a right to access, if not
control, people’s private spending. (After decades of welfare-statism, with trillion
dollar deficits and entire states going bankrupt, I wonder what gave them that
idea?)

Greatest irony: a distinction is made between “private money”
and “government money”—as if the latter could exist at all, apart from the
compliance of John and Jane Taxpayer.

As for choice in education, the notion must be reclaimed—and
proclaimed—that education is primarily about children (and by extension, their
families who make up society), not unions (teachers’, support staff, civil
liberty, or otherwise). As such, it is primarily parents and not bureaucrats
who should be making the major decisions – and not just about funding. But it’s
a start.

Mariette Ulrich is a homemaker and freelance writer. She lives in western Canada with her husband and six of their seven children. Mariette holds an Honours B.A. in English Literature...