CUA Law Professor and Students Weigh in as
Supreme Court Revisits State Support for Private Education
On Wednesday, Nov. 3, the United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments in two Arizona cases that put the issues of school choice and state support for students enrolled in private and religiously-affiliated schools back into the national spotlight: Arizona Christian Schools Tuition Organization v. Winn and Garriott v. Winn.
“Arizona allows individual and corporate taxpayers to take a tax credit for contributions to charitable organizations that devote 90% of their annual revenue for educational scholarships or tuition grants to children so that they can afford to go to the school of their parents’ choice”, said Catholic University law professor Robert Destro, director of the law school’s Interdisciplinary Program on Law and Religion. “If the Supreme Court allows Arizona’s tax credit program to continue, the range of educational choices available to poor and working class kids and families will increase exponentially. That’s why the Obama Administration and nearly all of the major players in ‘national’ education cases are involved.”
At least 73 percent of CTSO funding goes to support minority children, many of whom come from high-risk neighborhoods, according to Gracie Quiroz, director of the Catholic Tuition Support Organization.
“Professor Destro took a great interest in helping to defend children in Arizona who deserve the opportunity of a quality education regardless of their economic status,” she said. “He understands the value of educational choices, especially for children with limited opportunities.”
So, too, are the CUA Law students who worked on the amicus brief filed by Professor Destro and Phoenix attorney, Bennett Cooper, on behalf of the Jewish Tuition Organization, the New Way Learning Academy, the Catholic Tuition Organizations of the Dioceses of Phoenix and Tucson, and the Lutheran Education Foundation. “This was a great service learning opportunity for our students,” said Destro. “The real parties in interest in ACSTO & Garriott cases are poor and moderate income kids and families in Arizona. How often does a rising 2L get to help on a Supreme Court case and serve the poor at the same time?”
Emily Newman, a 2L from McLean, Virginia, has been working hard on ACTSO and Garriott since she finished her 1L examination in Constitutional Law, and finds the experience and client contact exciting and illuminating. “This experience has given me the chance to apply in practice what I have learned in law school thus far. The work has really helped me to identify and bridge gaps in my knowledge. Learning "by doing" has also helped me to think creatively about legal problems,” says Newman. “I’m certain that the skills I have developed as a result of working with Professor Destro on the ACSTO case will continue to be beneficial to my legal education and professional career.”
“ACSTO and Garriott may resolve some critical First Amendment, education, taxpayer standing, and tax law questions,” said Destro, who is often quoted in the media on constitutional law cases involving free speech, elections, life and death, and educational choice.
"I have faith that the U.S. Supreme Court understands that our children are the future so we must continue to push, promote and provide educational choices," said Quiroz.