WASHINGTON (June 10, 1998) -- The precedent-setting decision of Wisconsin's highest court allowing parents to use state-supported vouchers in religiously-affiliated schools was hailed by Msgr. Thomas McDade, the U.S. Bishops' secretary for education.
His statement follows.
"We view this as an historic precedent setting decision for the right of poor and minority parents to choose where they will send their children to school, whether that is a public, private or religious school.
"This right has always been available to those with the economic wherewithal; now the court has ruled that the poor have a share in that right. This is truly a victory for justice for parents.
"This decision stands with the rights of parents who struggle mightily to provide their children with a quality education and are often stymied in that effort by their lack of adequate funding.
"This decision on all aspects of the case vindicates the efforts of so many to obtain financial assistance for poor parents. The decision also proves that it is possible to craft voucher laws that will be approved by the courts."
The 4-2 decision said that the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (MPCP) does not violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution when it said that the program "... has a secular purpose, it will not have the primary effect of advancing religion and it will not lead to excessive entanglement between the State and the participating sectarian schools." The Court also said "the propriety of providing educational opportunities for children of poor families in the State goes without question."
The Court also ruled that the MPCP:
- does not violate the Wisconsin Constitution
- was not a "private or local" bill enacted in violation of the procedural requirements of the Wisconsin Constitution
- does not violate the uniformity provision of the Wisconsin Constitution
- does not violate the Wisconsin public purpose doctrine.
Finally, the Court ruled that children eligible for the amended MPCP when the Court's injunction was issued in August, 1995 are now eligible for the program.