Cleveland, Ohio, School Choice

Zelman v. Simmons-Harris
U.S. Supreme Court Victory for School Choice; Cleveland Voucher Program Upheld

IJ client Roberta Kitchen and daughter

IJ client Christine Suma and children

On June 27, 2002, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of Cleveland’s school choice program in the most important education decision since Brown v. Board of Education.  The court’s ruling in Zelman v. Simmons-Harris removed the federal Constitution from the legal arsenal of teachers’ unions and other school choice opponents and opened the door to full vindication of Brown’s promise of equal educational opportunity for all. 

The federal lawsuit was the second brought by school choice opponents against the Cleveland program; in the first challenge, filed in state court, the Ohio Supreme Court also declared school choice constitutional.

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: Victory for School Choice (June 27, 2002)

Client Video


Launch Release: Parents Intervene to Defend Cleveland School Choice Program In Federal Lawsuit (July 27, 1999)

Legal Briefs and Decisions

Download the U.S. Supreme Court Zelman Opinion

Download IJ's Brief on the Merits to the U.S. Supreme Court

Sixth Circuit Court's Opinion (December 11, 2000)

Download: Supreme Court Order for Stay (November 5, 1999

Download: Judge Solomon Oliver, Jr., Ohio Judicial Order (August 27, 1999)

Amicus Briefs collected from supporters of School Choice

Other Briefs on the Merits

Download: Hanna Perkins School, et al.

Download: State of Ohio




Case Timeline

Unions’ Filed Lawsuit:


July 20, 1999

IJ Intervention Filed:


July 27, 1999

Court Filed:

U.S. District Court of the Northern District of Ohio


August 24, 1999: U.S. District Court granted unions’ injunction request, halting program as litigation proceeded



November 5, 1999: U.S Supreme Court stayed injunction, allowing program to continue



December 20, 1999: U.S. District Court struck down scholarship program as unconstitutional



December 11, 2000: 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upholds trial court decision declaring program unconstitutional



September 25, 2001: U.S. Supreme Court agrees to review case



February 20, 2002: U.S. Supreme Court hears oral argument



June 27, 2002: U.S. Supreme Court declares school choice constitutional


Case Completed




Additional Releases

Maps, Charts and Facts

Release: School Choice Parents & Their Lawyer Discuss Today's U.S. Supreme Court Argument (February 20, 2002)

Visit our comprehensive School Choice Media Kit

Release: U.S. Supreme Court Battle for School Choice Draws Unprecedented Support (November 8, 2001)


Op-eds, News Articles and Links


Video: Where does the alphabet end?; (August 23, 2010)

Article: Counsel of Choice (August 2004)

Release: U.S. Supreme Court Will Review Cleveland School Choice Case (September 25, 2001)

Article: Together With IJ, I Fought for My Kids’ Futures; Liberty & Law (August 2002)

Article: School Choice Victory! Liberty & Law (August 2002)

The Washington Post: Court Upholds Ohio School Vouchers- Ruling Says Program Offers Poor Families Freedom of Choice (June 28, 2002)

Release: Bush Administration Files Brief Urging U.S. Supreme Court To Review Cleveland School Choice Case (June 22, 2001)


Article: Supreme Crescendo For School Choice; Liberty & Law (March 2002)

The Wall Street Journal: A Chance, Not a Choice (February 19, 2002)

Article: Friends of Choice Join Together As Friends of the Court; Liberty & Law (January 2002)

Article: In the Sight of the Summit and Ready to Climb; Liberty & Law (November 2001)

Release: Institute for Justice Asks U.S. Supreme Court To Hear School Choice Case (May 23, 2001)

Article: IJ Asks Supreme Court to Review Cleveland Case; Liberty & Law (July 2001)

The Washington Times: School Choice is Academic (March 4, 2001)

Release: Court Grants Stay for Choice Program: Kids Safe Through U.S. Supreme Court Appeal (March 8, 2001)


The Wall Street Journal: Our Brown v. Board (February 19, 2001)

Article: Will My Family Still Have a Choice? Liberty & Law (January 2001)

Article: School Choice: One Last Step to the Supremes; Liberty & Law (January 2001)

Release: Entire Sixth Circuit Declines to Review School Choice Case, Appeal Now Headed to U.S. Supreme Court (March 1, 2001)


Article: Judge Strikes Down Cleveland School Choice But U.S. Supreme Court Lets Program Continue; Liberty & Law (February 2000)

New York Times: Many Cleveland Parents Frantic As Voucher Ruling Limits Choice (August 26, 1999)

Release: Institute for Justice Seeks Review of School Choice Case By Full Sixth Circuit (December 28, 2000)


Wall Street Journal: Suffer the Children (August 26, 1999)

Release: Institute for Justice Blasts School Choice Ruling, Vows U.S. Supreme Court Appeal (December 11, 2000)


Washington Times: Failing Cleveland's students (August 26, 1999


Release: Parents File Cleveland School Choice Appeal; Lament Latest Public School Failures (January 12, 2000)


New York Times: Cleveland Voucher Program Is Blocked at Start of School (August 25, 1999

Release: Institute for Justice To Appeal Adverse School Choice Ruling (December 20, 1999)


Wall Street Journal: Judge Blocks School Voucher Program In Ohio, Citing Use of Taxpayer Funds (August 25, 1999

Release: Cloud of Injunction Lifted From Cleveland School Choice Program (December 3, 1999)

USA Today: Judge Blocks Cleveland's School Voucher Program (August 25, 1999)

Release: Sixth Circuit Allows Cleveland School Choice To Proceed (November 18, 1999)


Washington Times: At 11th hour, judge blocks Ohio voucher plan (August 25, 1999)

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