Martha Minow


Reflecting market rhetoric but also potentially advancing spiritual and religious values, school voucher plans dominate current debates on education reform. These voucher plans would enable parents to use public dollars to select private schools, including parochial ones, for their children. Moreover, the recent federal welfare reform includes the "charitable choice" provision, which enables states to issue vouchers to individuals who can redeem them for services and aid from private, including religious, entities. In this Article, Professor Minow predicts that constitutional challenges to these plans under the religion clauses are likely to result in judicial approval of school vouchers and judicial rejection of charitable choice, even though she finds school vouchers the more troubling policy and charitable choice the more promising one. Both kinds of proposals raise challenging questions about individual choice, its reliability, and its importance relative to the need for commonality in society sufficient to bridge plural and potentially divided communities. Yet, both proposals are superior to simplistic alternatives that assign responsibility for schooling and welfare entirely to homogeneous communities, to the federal government, or to each individual. Voucher proposals, if regulated, can establish constructive partnerships between governments and private, including religious, entities at the local, state, and federal levels.

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