BY World's Editorial Writers
Thursday, October 07, 2010
10/07/10 at 3:34 AM
We agree with the Jenks and Broken Arrow school boards: A new state law to allow parents of special-education children to use public funding for private schools is wrong.
We further agree with the districts that if the parents take that money to religious schools - and most of the schools approved for the state's new program are religious schools - it violates the U.S. Constitution's prohibition of state sponsorship of religion.
We further agree with the districts that the program is setting the stage for a broader more pernicious voucher program, which would be just as wrong, just as much a violation of the Constitution and very destructive of the public school system.
We also agree with the districts that the Legislature never should have passed the state law that requires them to send state and local funding along with the students to the private schools and that Gov. Brad Henry never should have signed it.
But our agreement with the school districts ends when the school districts decide to simply ignore the law.
The Jenks and Broken Arrow school boards have voted not to comply. Six other districts - Tulsa, Owasso, Sand Springs, Sapulpa, Union and Bixby - are said to be considering the same course in coming weeks.
While the law is wrong, and quite possibly a violation of the state and federal constitutions, refusing to abide by it is the wrong course of action.
It sets up an unwinnable conflict between the local school districts and the state and a legal battle that will only benefit the lawyers involved.
Civil disobedience is an honored part of American history, and it has its place, but it certainly is not the first resort.
The school districts have several other options that avoid breaking the law.
They could go to court and seek an injunction to prevent the program from being implemented. If the district is correct and the program violates the Constitution, they should be able to find a judge to agree with them.
They could go to the voters and convince them to pressure legislators to undo the bad law. Education lobbyists were active on the issue last year. Why abandon the political process simply because the first battle was lost?
Refusing to abide by state law suggests one of two things: Either the school districts are the victims of discrimination and can't count on equal treatment in the judicial and political spheres, or they're just bad losers.
The first alternative isn't true, and the second one teaches the wrong lessons, as does willful disregard for state law.