(CNN) - In a ruling that could reverberate nationwide, the Indiana Supreme Court upheld the state's voucher program, which gives poor and middle class families public funds to help pay for private school tuition, including religious schools.
Indiana has the broadest school voucher program available to a range of incomes, critics say, and could set a precedent as other states seek ways to expand such programs.
Supporters say it gives families without financial means more options on where to educate their children.
However, opponents of the Indiana program had sued to block it, describing it as unconstitutional and saying it takes money from public schools.
Teresa Meredith, the vice president of the Indiana State Teachers Association and one of the plaintiffs, said she was "very disappointed in the ruling."
As many as 9,000 students statewide are part of the voucher program and more than 80% use the funds to go to religious schools, according to Meredith.
But in its unanimous 5-0 ruling, the Supreme Court said that was not an issue.
It said it did not matter that funds had been directed to religious schools as long as the state was not directly funding the education. The tuition, the court said, was being funded by the parents who chose to pay it with their vouchers.
"Whether the Indiana program is wise educational or public policy is not a consideration," Chief Justice Brent Dickson wrote. The public funds "do not directly benefit religious schools but rather directly benefit lower-income families with school children."
by Chris Boyette, CNN
(CNN) Like many students his age this time of year, Luke Gulley, 16, sits at a desk in a small classroom waiting for his lessons to begin. What sets this young man’s experience apart from most other students is that while many public schools across the country are dealing with overcrowding, Luke is the only kid in his class.
Luke is a student at Fusion Academy, a chain of private for-profit schools with 12 locations in California that boasts a highly personalized curriculum and a 1:1 student-teacher ratio.
On Friday, the New York State Education Department approved Fusion Academy’s application to operate in New York. Classes will begin this week at campuses in Long Island and Manhattan, with a third scheduled to open in Westchester in January, according to school officials.
Fusion was founded by Michelle Rose Gilman in 1989 as a tutoring center. It grew into an alternative, hands-on approach to educating a special brand of students, grades 6-12.
“Our students are the kids who have not been successful in traditional education,” Gilman said, “They could be kids with learning disabilities like ADHD, maybe they have social issues, like having been bullied, or maybe they are gifted and aren’t challenged enough in other schools.”
The idea behind Fusion is a completely personalized education experience, from how the courses are taught to when. FULL POST