Zelman v. Simmons-Harris
536 U.S. 639 (2002)

  • 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 Amendment.
    • 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 nonreligious options.
    • 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.