Broad Coalition Celebrates Ten-Year Anniversary of Landmark Supreme Court Decision on Cleveland Voucher Program
Posted on Tuesday June 12, 2012 | Ohio
More than 650 attendees recognize historic case, which opened doors of educational opportunity to hundreds of thousands of children nationwide
Cleveland, OH (June 12, 2012)—Hundreds of parents, lawmakers, and education reform advocates joined together last night in a celebration of the 10-year anniversary of the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision that marked a major turning point in the school choice movement, affirming numerous school choice programs and leading to their enactment in more than a dozen states.
The American Federation for Children—the nation’s voice for school choice—was among the sponsors of the event, which recognized a June 27, 2002, high court ruling in Zelman vs. Simmons-Harris that affirmed the constitutionality of the Cleveland Scholarship and Tutoring Program and proved to be among the catalysts for significant expansion of private school voucher and scholarship tax credit legislation in the decade that followed.
Among those honored at the event, which was organized by School Choice Ohio (www.scohio.org), were the late Fannie M. Lewis, former member of the Cleveland City Council and staunch supporter of the initial effort to bring a voucher program to the city. When it was enacted in 1995, the Cleveland program was only the second-ever private school choice program nationwide, and Lewis, who died in 2008 at the age of 82, was among the program’s first and most fervent Democratic supporters. Today, thanks to her efforts, her grandchildren have received scholarships through the Cleveland program.
Kevin P. Chavous, a senior advisor to the American Federation for Children, told an audience at the event yesterday that it was the work of advocates in Cleveland who helped spark much of the recent school choice growth nationwide.
“School choice is about expanding educational options, which we were doing 10 years ago and which we are still doing today,” Chavous said. “And today, we are a bipartisan movement helping more than 210,000 children in 15 states and the District of Columbia.”
Ohio State Representative Bill Patmon (D), State Senator Nina Turner (D), and John Zitner—President of Friends of Breakthrough Schools—each received the School Choice Ohio Courage Award in the memory of Fannie Lewis. David Brennan, a 2006 recipient of the Alliance for School Choice’s John T. Walton Champion Award, also received the School Choice Ohio Leadership Award.
Patmon was also praised by leaders for introducing legislation to eliminate the parent contribution requirement of scholarships under the Cleveland Program. The bill is expected to pass this week and be signed into law by Ohio Governor John Kasich (R).
The Cleveland Scholarship and Tutoring Program served more than 5,603 students during the 2011-12 school year. Ohio is also home to three additional voucher programs—the statewide Educational Choice Scholarship Program and two programs for students with special needs. In total, nearly 24,000 students are served by private school choice in Ohio.