Ohio School Choice (State Case)

Simmons-Harris v. Goff
Gatton v. Goff (consolidated)—Ohio Supreme Court Upholds Cleveland School Choice Program

IJ client Robert Kitchen and daughter

IJ client Christine Suma and children

In the first legal challenge to the Cleveland school choice program, teachers’ unions and other special interest groups filed a lawsuit in state court shortly before the program began in 1996.  Choice opponents alleged that the program violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, as well as the “compelled support” clause of the Ohio Constitution, by allowing participating families to select religious schools.  Like state supreme courts in Wisconsin and Arizona, the Ohio Supreme Court in 1999 rejected the unions’ arguments and found school choice constitutional.

The Ohio Supreme Court also invalidated the program as improperly enacted by the legislature. Shortly after that decision, the Ohio Legislature re-enacted the program.

The Cleveland Scholarship and Tutoring Program provides children from low-income, inner-city families with publicly funded scholarships to attend the private school of their parents’ choice.  (Suburban public schools were invited to join the program, but refused.)  The program was implemented as part of a comprehensive effort by the Ohio legislature to aid one of the most troubled public school districts in the country.  For more information about school choice in Cleveland and nationwide, visit our comprehensive School Choice Media Kit.










Essential Background


Backgrounder: none available

Client Photo - none available

Latest Release: Ohio Supreme Court Says School Choice Is Constitutional, But Invalidates Program On Technical Grounds (May 27, 1999)

Client Video


Legal Briefs and Decisions

Launch Release: Institute to Defend Ohio Choice Program (January 10, 1996)

Listen: audio from the U.S. Supreme Court argument of Kelo v. New London






Case Timeline

Unions’ Filed Lawsuit:


January 10, 1996

IJ Intervention Filed:



Court Filed:


Franklin County Court of Common Pleas



July 31, 1996: Trial court ruled school choice program constitutional



May 1, 1997: Ohio appellate court struck down program



May 27, 1999: Ohio Supreme Court declared school choice constiutional under federal and state constitutions; court also ruled that the legislature improperly passed the program.  Shortly after, the Ohio legislature re-enacted the program.



Case Completed




Additional Releases

Maps, Charts and Facts

Release: Ohio Supreme Court Grants Stay; School Choice Program to Proceed (July 24, 1997)


Study: Harvard University Cleveland Schools


Release: Second Study Shows Academic Gains For School Choice Students, Results Mirror Earlier Findings (June 25, 1997)


Release: Debate Sharpens Over School Choice (May 2, 1997)



Release: School Choice Suffers Setback in Ohio (May 1, 1997)



Release: Ohio Upholds Constitutionality of School Vouchers (July 31, 1996)



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