When Jenks and Union school districts sued the parents of special-needs students who got state scholarships, critics said targeting the parents was improper and apparently designed to financially punish families. This week, the state Supreme Court agreed, tossing the lawsuit due to lack of standing and declaring that “the parents are clearly not the proper parties” to be sued.
The court's action makes clear that this was a frivolous lawsuit and the schools were involved in de facto extortion: Don't stand up for your children, or we will destroy you financially!
The court ruling is a win for Oklahoma citizens and a loss for overreaching bureaucrats. Fortunately, the affected families' legal bills were covered by supporters, but they never should have faced litigation in the first place. Unfortunately, the school districts' intimidation tactics reportedly caused some families not to seek scholarships because of lawsuit fears. Other students were affected as well: Taxpayer dollars that could have gone to the classroom in Jenks and Union instead funded this bogus and expensive legal shakedown.
It's time Jenks and Union moved on rather than refile the lawsuit. For one thing, the special-needs scholarships are saving taxpayer money.
The maximum scholarship amount awarded is equal to 97.5 percent of the per-pupil cost, with that figure based on the school district's own determination of disability category and grade level.
However, the scholarship can be less if private school tuition is lower. Guess what? In fiscal year 2012, parents qualified for $1,095,805 in scholarships, but only $969,166 was needed. That extra $126,639 stayed with the schools for other students' needs.
Under this program, families of children with special needs feel better served, public schools are getting an indirect funding increase and taxpayer dollars are being maximized. The only losers here are zealous school administrators who refuse to put the needs of some children ahead of their desire to control state funds.