Teacher Teresa Meredith, the main plaintiff in the lawsuit and vice president of the Indiana State Teachers Association, called the ruling a setback for public education.
“I still very much believe that public schools are where most of our society is educated and we need to be investing and making those the best they can be,” she told The Associated Press in a phone interview. “The vast majority of students will be robbed so that a group of students can get religious education on taxpayer dollars,” she added.
Solicitor General Thomas Fisher, defending the law, told the court in November that parents were free to send their children to any school they wished, public or private, religious or not.
The state Supreme Court agreed with that, saying in a 22-page opinion written by Chief Justice Brent Dickson that the program primarily benefited parents, not schools, because it gave parents choice in their children’s education.
Dickson also rejected school voucher opponents’ claims that the state constitution requires a public school system, saying lawmakers have broad discretion in how children are educated.
“The method and means of fulfilling this duty is thus delegated to the sound legislative discretion of the General Assembly, and . . . it is not for the judiciary to evaluate the prudence of the chosen policy,” he wrote.
School voucher programs have strong support from conservative Republicans, who say they offer families more choices and will boost education by giving public schools greater incentive to improve. Critics contend the vouchers could cripple public schools by diverting desperately needed funds.
State School Superintendent Glenda Ritz joined the lawsuit while campaigning last year, but she removed her name from the list of plaintiffs shortly after winning office. She has walked a delicate line in the Statehouse since then, saying she opposes that law but is sworn to uphold it.