BRIEF: School Choice in the States November 2015


Leslie Hiner participated as a panelist in American Enterprise Institute’s event, “With all deliberate speed: Brown v. Board of Education II 60 years later.” She spoke on the successes, challenges, and next steps for integration in schools. Also at the event, Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice Senior Fellow Dr. Ben Scafidi presented findings from his latest report for the Foundation, The Integration Anomaly: Comparing the Effects of K–12 Education Delivery Models on Segregation in Schools.


Colorado – Brittany Corona @BrittanyLCorona

Nine amicus briefs in support of Douglas County School District’s petition for a writ of certiorari were filed on November 27, including one brief by the Friedman Foundation. Respondent ACLU, et al. will file their opposition brief to the District’s petition in December, and will have an opportunity for amici opposing the District’s petition to file their briefs in support of the Respondents’ opposition. The Court will likely decide in February whether it will grant certiorari.  If certiorari is granted, oral argument is expected to begin in the autumn of 2016 and a ruling by the end of the Court’s 2016–17 term (which concludes in June 2017).

The Colorado Supreme Court ruled the Douglas County Choice Scholarship Pilot Program unconstitutional on June 29. Although the state’s Supreme Court opinion limits educational options for Douglas County students, it might open a door for thousands across the country to access quality education; that is, if the Supreme Court of the United States decides to review the case on the Blaine amendment issue. Learn more about the decision here. Read our amicus brief here.


Louisiana – Brittany Corona @BrittanyLCorona

In a 2-1 decision on November 11, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a district court ruling that granted the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) pre-clearance review of the Louisiana Scholarship Program, arguing that the lower court exceeded its scope of authority.

The U.S. Department of Justice filed a suit against the Louisiana Scholarship Program (LSP) in September 2014. The DOJ tried to use a 38-year-old federal desegregation order, Brumfield v. Dodd, to prohibit children in affected schools from participating in the voucher program because of the color of their skin—on the purported grounds that the schools they left would become less integrated. The department was unable to produce the documents that supposedly showed the program was increasing segregation, and in November 2014, the court announced that the DOJ dropped its request for an injunction, which would have halted the program, but granted DOJ request to provide federal officials with the names, addresses, grades, race and public school history for voucher students to ensure they didn’t promote segregated schools. The November 2015 ruling by the Fifth Circuit reverses this infringement on the LSP’s freedom.

A study of the LSP by doctoral students at the University of Arkansas shows the program actually improves racial integration in schools. Learn more here.


Montana – Michael Chartier @mchart1

The Montana Department of Revenue hosted a hearing on its proposed rules, which unilaterally exclude religious schools from receiving funds from the tax-credit scholarship program. A coalition of legislators, parents, and advocates testified about why those schools should be allowed to accept the funds. Final rules should be released in December.


Nevada – Michael Chartier @mchart1

Letters alerting parents to their acceptance into Nevada’s education savings account (ESA) program were mailed this month. The first batch included around 800 letters, and the remainder will continue to be mailed throughout December.


South Dakota – Brittany Corona @BrittanyLCorona

The Friedman Foundation hosted two trainings in Sioux Falls, SD on November 12. The trainings served to educate private school administrators and legislators about school choice research and the fiscal impact, constitutionality, and implementation of tax-credit scholarships and ESAs. Sen. Phyllis Heineman is leading the effort to introduce tax-credit scholarships in the state in 2016. The bill would give tax credits to insurance companies that donated to scholarship-granting organizations, which would provide scholarships for low-income students to attend private schools of choice.


Tennessee – Brittany Corona @BrittanyLCorona

The Tennessee Senate education committee held hearings on school choice and course access programs on November 2 and 3.

The legislature submitted draft rules for the State Board of Education in November regarding Tennessee’s new Individualized Education Account Program, an ESA program for students with special needs. Final rules will be decided in January 2016.