High Court Weighs Tax Credit For Religious Schools
MICHELE NORRIS, Host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.
ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:
Here's NPR legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg.
NINA TOTENBERG: On the steps of the Supreme Court today, lawyer Paul Bender, representing those challenging the law, contended that Arizona's system illegally subsidizes religious schools.
PAUL BENDER: Sixty-five percent of the whole program went out on the basis of religion. You get this scholarship only if you send your kid to the religious school that I designate.
TOTENBERG: But David Cortman of the Arizona Christian Schools Tuition Association disagreed.
DAVID CORTMAN: Not a dime goes to any school, religious or secular, unless the parent decides, number one, that their child will attend that school; and number two, that they apply for a scholarship.
TOTENBERG: The Obama administration, represented by acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal, contended that taxpayers have no such right to go to court because the money here went to private groups that in turn handed out the tuition grants.
NORRIS: Justice Kagan: Counsel, if you're right, the court was without authority to decide a whole line of cases, many of them recently. Katyal agreed.
K: Defending the Arizona statute on the merits was state appellate lawyer Paula Bickett. She said the tuition tax credit law is similar to dozens of other state laws that provide for tax credits.
SIEGEL: Why didn't Arizona simply enact a voucher system for parents, a system that the Supreme Court has already upheld in other cases? Answer: Because Arizona's Constitution does not allow direct aid to private schools. So this system uses tax credits as a sort of pass-through to student tuition organizations, or STOs.
STO: That assertion was like waving a red flag in front of the court's conservatives. Scalia, Roberts, Alito and Kennedy erupted in a chorus of dispute.
NORRIS: Nina Totenberg, NPR News, Washington.
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