Author: Matt Huffman, Associate Member, University of Cincinnati Law Review
In 2014, Americans rated “education” as a top area of concern and as one of the most important problems facing the country. Education is a social, political, and economic issue, and quality education is viewed as critical for both individual and societal success. While the U.S. spends more per student than most countries, this spending has not translated into better results.,  These underwhelming results have led to widespread debate on how to “fix” the education system in the United States. Ohio was one of the first states to tackle the issues of high costs and poor performance. With the initial implementation of its Cleveland public schools voucher program in 1995, Ohio offered students in failing school districts the opportunity to attend any private school. This program has since expanded into a number of different forms and is now available to all students in Ohio who meet the designated criteria of their respective programs. A substantial number of vouchers have been used for students to attend private, Catholic schools. Since the implementation of voucher programs, the use of public dollars to fund education at religious schools has caused significant debate. This transfer of state money from public schools to religious schools via the voucher program has led to debate about whether the program is an impermissible mixing of church and state under the U.S. Constitution. This article first argues that Ohio’s voucher program is not an impermissible mixing of church and state, and, moreover, that religious schools must be included in any voucher program under the Free Exercise Clause. The article then analyzes Ohio’s own constitution and the socio-political impact of vouchers in determining whether Ohio lawmakers should actually be compelled to pass laws to provide educational opportunities for students at all schools, including private, religiously affiliated schools.