Another Victory For Choice: Alabama’s STC Program Wins the Day

I love to see choice win. In fact, I’m hoping that we will have a favorable ruling on the Douglas County Choice Scholarship Program from the Colorado Supreme Court any day now. In the meantime, I’ll have to make due with another victory for scholarship tax credits down south.

Just this week, the Alabama Supreme Court handed down a ruling upholding the state’s scholarship tax credit program. Edu-nerds can read the full decision here, but be warned: It’s 200 pages long. Bring snacks. For everyone else, here’s the short version from Tuscaloosa News story linked above:

The justices said the law does not violate restrictions on giving public funds to private, religious schools because the tax credits go to parents and to scholarship program donors, not to the schools. They also said Republican lawmakers acted legally when they passed the bill the same night that it was introduced in a conference committee.

If you’ve heard similar language in legal decisions on scholarship tax credits before, that’s because it is one of the most important lines of defense for these programs. Money doesn’t flow from the state to private—and possibly religious—schools as it does in voucher programs. Instead, private donors receive tax credits for donating to private scholarship granting organizations that give private scholarships to kids to attend private schools. World record for use of “private” in a single sentence? Perhaps. But it serves to illustrate an important point: No money passes through the state. In fact, that’s one of the main reasons scholarship tax credit programs are so difficult for choice opponents to beat in court.

So where does this leave us? The last six months have seen some great victories for choice in New Hampshire and, more recently, Florida. But that doesn’t mean the fight is over. Florida still has a union-led suit pending against its scholarship tax credit program—a program that serves roughly 70,000 low-income kids, and Georgia is also facing a legal challenge to its own state program.

The opponents of choice seem to have taken a famous piece of advice to heart: If at first you don’t succeed, sue people until you win. Or maybe I’m misremembering how that saying ends…

Anyway, it’s obvious that choice is not yet in the clear. Still, things look a little bit better every time the choice movement checks off another legal victory. And as those victories continue to pile up, other states are moving forward with their own choice efforts. Mississippi’s Education Savings Account bill is moving through the legislature, and new polling results show strong support for a similar bill in Tennessee.

School choice isn’t just the civil rights issue of our time, my friends. It’s the wave of the future.