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US Supreme Court Upholds Arizona Scholarship Tax Credit Program

By a 5-4 vote the United States Supreme Court upheld Arizona’s Scholarship Tax Credit program.  Those that brought suit claimed that the program violated the establishment clause by diverting tax dollars to religious schools.

In writing for the majority, Judge Anthony Kennedy noted a difference between a tax credit and a direct expenditure by the government.  The majority opinion also found that the plaintiff’s status as taxpayers did not give them standing to file suit and that “any financial injury remains speculative.”

Education reform advocates immediately reacted to the ruling as a great victory for providing education options for children.  Many of the scholarship tax credit programs in the country are focused on low income families or special needs students.  This case is also viewed as a final word on the constitutionality of scholarship tax credit programs. Many states were waiting on this decision before expanding, or considering new, programs similar to the one in Arizona.

Justices Kagan, Breyer, Ginsberg and Sotomayor dissented stating that no practical difference existed in direct expenditures and tax credits.

Justices Scalia and Thomas joined in a majority concurring opinion adding that a narrow exception allowing taxpayers standing in establishment cases should be overruled completely.

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