Sunday, February 21, 2016

As Henry Scholarship program continues to rescue kids, Supreme Court gives unanimous approval

Great news this week, as the Oklahoma Supreme Court declared Oklahoma's special-needs voucher program, the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship program, to be constitutional.

The decision is here, and proves that even non-lawyers like myself can figure out a thing or two. To go deeper, listen to OCPA legal eagles Trent England and Andrew Spiropoulos discuss the ruling here and read Spiropoulos's Journal Record column here.

Students and parents (especially those parents whose bullied children talked about suicide) are of course thrilled with the ruling, as are The OklahomanGov. Mary Fallin, and Attorney General Scott Pruitt, who called the Henry Scholarship a "wonderful program." Oklahomans seem to agree: a Cole Hargrave Snodgrass survey released in December 2015 found that 74 percent of Oklahomans think the Henry Scholarship is a good thing for Oklahoma while only 11 percent say it's a bad thing. When asked if they favor or oppose expanding this opportunity to more children, 75 percent say they favor the idea while 16 percent oppose.

Meanwhile, the Tulsa World, in keeping with the venerable tradition of haughty disdain for its customers, informed its readers that the "Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship Program was a bad idea when it was first written, and we continue to oppose it." Sand Springs superintendent Lloyd Snow, perhaps unaware that legislation passed by the people's elected representatives and signed into law by a popular two-term governor is a pretty good indicator of the will of the people, was similarly defiant: "A legal ruling does not change the will of the people."

But enough with the law and the politics. As I wrote in The Oklahoman not long after the bill was signed into law:
Neither the governor nor anyone connected to him asked for the bill to be named for Lindsey. Rather, as state House Speaker Pro Tem Kris Steele pointed out, "It was suggested to him as a way to honor the memory of his daughter and let it be known for generations to come that she, and her parents, are helping to improve the lives of special-needs children across the state." 
So as the years pass, and you hear stories of disabled kids whose lives were changed because a scholarship gave them a chance to try something new, I encourage you to think of that little girl. I know I will.

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