Marion County Superior Court Judge Michael Keele has ruled that the Indiana Choice Scholarship Program is legal and has rejected every claim against the program brought by the plaintiffs in the Meredith v. Daniels trial.
Keele ruled in favor of both the state and two parents, Heather Coffy and Monica Poindexter, who have intervened in the lawsuit – which was backed by both state and national teachers' unions – in defense of the program.
Coffy and Poindexter were represented by the Institute for Justice (IJ).
The court previously rejected the plaintiffs' request for a preliminary injunction against the Choice Scholarship Program until the court reached a final decision on the constitutionality of the program.
But now this ruling closes the litigation at court level, at least, meaning that the almost 4,000 students who have received Choice Scholarships can continue to be able to attend the private schools.
The court dismissed the plaintiffs argument, saying that the Choice Scholarship Program "is not in place âfor the benefit' of religious schools."
Judge Keele ruled that "the CSP bestows benefits onto scholarship recipients who may then choose to use the funding for education at a public, secular private, or religious private school."
Institute for Justice Senior Attorney Bert Gall said:
"Today's ruling is a resounding win for Indiana parents and students, and it is a major defeat for school choice opponents.
"The court's well-reasoned decision makes clear that the Choice Scholarship Program is constitutional and that the teachers' unions' lawsuit against it is completely meritless."
Heather Coffy, a mom of three children who have received Choice Scholarships, said:
"Thanks to today's ruling, I and thousands of other parents across the state of Indiana can continue to choose schools for our children that best suit their educational needs."
IJ Senior Attorney Dick Komer said:
"The court got it exactly right: While the Choice Scholarship Program is inconsistent with the self-serving agenda of the teachers' unions who are supporting this lawsuit, it is perfectly consistent with the Indiana Constitution.
"We expect the teachers' unions to appeal, but we are confident that the trial court's decision will be affirmed."
The decision echoes Indiana's long tradition of providing choice-based aid to students who choose to attend private schools and colleges. The ruling that upholds the Choice Scholarship Program would secure scholarship programs at the higher education level, as well as textbook and transportation-assistance programs for children who attend private schools, says a press release.
"Indiana's Choice Scholarship Program is about providing true educational choice to Indiana families," said Chip Mellor, the Institute's president and general counsel.
"As the court recognized, the Indiana Constitution does not forbid programs like the Choice Scholarship Program. That's why the teachers' unions' lawsuit failed, and why it will continue to fail if they appeal."