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The architects of Cleveland's program counter that city parents are in no way encouraged to send their kids to religious schools. Parents can choose public magnet or charter schools, which are free and get far more funding per pupil than voucher schools. For this reason, says Clint Bolick, lead lawyer for a group of parents defending the program, "there's actually a disincentive to choose the voucher schools." Bolick argues that if you include magnet and charter schools in the equation, only 16.5% of parents who exercise educational choice send their kids to religious schools.
If the Supreme Court upholds the appeals court's reasoning, it is likely to affect not only the kids using vouchers in Cleveland but also 8,000 kids in Milwaukee, Wis., and 52 in Pensacola, Fla., who are beneficiaries of similar programs. And George W. Bush's most controversial education proposal--$1,500 vouchers for kids in failing schools--could be dead. Court watchers take note: as in previous church-state cases, the key vote, as in the election case, appears to belong to Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.
--With reporting by David E. Thigpen/Cleveland