Oct 14, 1998

A Delaware County, Pa., judge ruled yesterday that the Southeast Delco School Board cannot create its own voucher plan. Americans United for Separation of Church and State, one of the groups that sponsored the lawsuit against the voucher program, applauded the decision as a victory for church-state separation, individual freedom and common sense.

"We now have yet another court ruling rejecting vouchers in this country," said Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. "The Delco case was another in a long line of attempts to undermine public education and force taxpayers to finance religious education, whether they agree with the faith or not. The court rightly said no."

In Giacomucci v. Southeast Delco School District, Judge Joseph F. Battle struck down the voucher initiative, before the case had even gone to trial, ruling that the county board of school directors had overstepped its authority by establishing its own voucher system outside the state's public school code.

"A common sense reading of the Public School Code results in a finding that there is not any express authority granted by statute to a school board to provide parents of school district students with sums of money as tuition reimbursement for tuition paid to non-school district schools," Battle said in his opinion.

In March, the suburban Philadelphia school board, which is dominated by parochial school advocates, adopted the voucher scheme by a 7-0 vote, despite complaints that the plan runs afoul of the First Amendment, the Pennsylvania state constitution and the state public school code.

"After losing in Maine, Ohio, Puerto Rico, Vermont and now Pennsylvania, you might think voucher advocates would start to get the hint," Lynn said. "The law is just not on their side."