Schools in Cleveland weren't
doing very well, so Ohio set up a school voucher program. Under the
program, public school students in bad school districts could receive
tuition assistance to attend a private school instead.
The tuition assistance was
available for students who chose to go to either religious or
nonreligious private schools.
Turned out 96% of the
students who used the voucher program chose to attend religious schools.
Simmons-Harris and others
sued, claiming that the program was an unconstitutional violation of the Establishment
Clause of the 1st
Simmons-Harris et. al.
argued that their tax money should go towards fixing the public schools,
not to support religious-affiliated institutions.
The US Supreme Court found the
voucher program to be constitutionally permissible.
The US Supreme Court
developed a five-part test to determine if a school voucher program was a
violation of the Establishment Clause:
The program must have a
valid secular purpose,
Aid must go to parents and
not to the schools,
A broad class of
beneficiaries must be covered,
The program must be neutral
with respect to religion, and
There must be adequate
The Court found that the
Cleveland program met all five parts of the test, therefore it was not a
violation of the Establishment Clause.
This five-part test is now
known as the Private Choice Test.