The News: The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) and The Buckeye Institute joint filed an amicus brief in Eidson v. South Carolina Department of Education, calling on the South Carolina Supreme Court to allow the implementation of the state’s Education Scholarship Trust Fund program.
The Quotes: “It’s troubling to see any attempt to deprive low-income and minority families from educational freedom. Support for school choice is growing across the nation—from Wisconsin to South Carolina,” said WILL Education Counsel, Cory Brewer. “We ask that the South Carolina Supreme Court side with parents and the rule of law, as every child deserves a quality education.”
“Just as they did in Ohio—and continue to do today—entrenched special interests in South Carolina are using the courts to block a school choice program that elected representatives of the people passed and that parents—particularly low-income parents—want,” said David C. Tryon, director of litigation at The Buckeye Institute. “The South Carolina Supreme Court should tell these special interests they cannot deny families the opportunity school choice offers poor and minority students.”
Our Argument: In our brief, we note that experiences of students and parents in Wisconsin and Ohio—states that were early innovators of school choice efforts—demonstrate that “voters and legislators value giving parents the ability to choose the educational environment that best fits the needs of their children.”
As the brief outlines, school choice programs in Wisconsin and Ohio illustrate a history of bipartisan support. Students and parents demanded alternatives to public education—alternatives that could be lost to students in South Carolina if the Court were to prevent the State from enforcing its Education Scholarship Trust Fund program.
Wisconsin was the first state in the nation to enact a school choice program, now over 30 years old. At the time, Democrats controlled the Wisconsin State Assembly and State Senate, and Republican Governor Tommy Thompson signed the school choice bill into law via the biennial budget. Wisconsin’s program started in Milwaukee, has since expanded to be statewide, and continues to be utilized by more and more families.
Ohio followed Wisconsin’s lead. In 1996, Ohio launched the second school choice program in the nation, which began with a pilot scholarship targeted at Cleveland residents. With the support of Republicans, Democrats, and Cleveland parents, the program became an example that Ohio would later expand to include more school districts and eligible students.
When the issue of religious schools being allowed to participate in school choice programs came under scrutiny, the United States Supreme Court heard a case challenging the constitutionality of the Cleveland program. Community leaders, parents, and bipartisan legislators made their voices heard and filed amicus briefs in support of the program. SCOTUS ultimately upheld the constitutionality of the programs.
School choice programs in Wisconsin and Ohio experience bipartisan support and are used by both urban and rural communities and students of all races. The success of these programs indicates that educational freedom will also improve the lives of South Carolina families, especially children.
- Amicus Brief, February 2024