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Indiana Supreme Court Ruling a True, Lasting March Madness Victory for Kids

Update, 3/27: For more perspective on the magnitude of yesterday’s court victory, read this redefinED commentary by Institute for Justice attorney Bert Gall, who argued the Indiana case.

I’m feeling just a little jealous of Indiana today. Just a little now–this is Colorado after all. I’m not talking about the fact that the Hoosiers made it to the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet 16, while neither the CU Buffaloes or CSU Rams made it past their second March Madness contest. Although the results on the basketball court haven’t helped, it’s actually news from a different kind of court that gives me extra smiles today:

The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice hailed today’s ruling from the Indiana Supreme Court, which declared the state’s school voucher program constitutional. The announcement ends a nearly two-year-long review of the nation’s largest voucher initiative, for which more than half of the state’s student population qualifies.

The Indiana Supreme Court upheld the program by a vote of 5-0, ruling “the voucher program expenditures do not directly benefit religious schools but rather directly benefit lower-income families with school-children by providing an opportunity for such children to attend non-public schools if desired.”

5-0… Unanimous? I wonder if those judges are all unanimously excited at the Hoosier’s basketball tourney success thus far, or whether there might be a Purdue (or even a Butler) fan thrown in there. What a remarkable victory for school choice, especially given the fact that Indiana’s Choice Scholarship Program is the fastest-growing of its kind in history. More than 9,000 students benefit from the additional opportunity in only its second year, with more than an eighth of students coming from Indianapolis.

As the American Federation of Children exulted today:

The victory for parents and children in Indiana continues the momentum for educational choice throughout the country. There are currently 33 publicly funded private school choice programs in 17 states and Washington, D.C.

What makes the good news out of Indiana all the more interesting and relevant for us in Colorado is the parallel track with another Choice Scholarship Program in our own backyard, Douglas County. The two programs were adopted within weeks of each other, and challenged by lawsuits about the same time. The difference? In January 2012 Indiana students and families won a clear first-round legal victory and was appealed straight to the state’s highest court.

Here in Colorado, the Court of Appeals finally gave the good news we were looking for. I am so glad that, unlike the NCAA Tournament, the state’s legal system isn’t based on single elimination for Dougco students seeking additional opportunity through the Choice Scholarship Program.

Now let’s hope both wins stick, because in the end they could be much bigger than any basketball championship–for the Hoosiers, or for anyone else.