Published: 11-11-2011, 03:56

Wolman v. Walter - American Education

A complex 1977 U.S. Supreme Court decision that upheld the constitutionality of an Ohio law authorizing various forms of state aid to private schools. In rejecting such aid in previous decisions, the Court had held it unconstitutional for public schools to use taxpayer money to provide religious schools with materials or personal services that would, in effect, publicly support and further a religion. The Ohio law allowed specific forms of aid that could in no way be construed as furthering a religion. Loans of secular textbooks, for example, were included, along with such services as standardized testing and scoring, speech and hearing diagnostic services and remedial and guidance services. The Court voted against the lending of classroom instructional equipment other than textbooks, and rejected a provision that would have allowed state financing of parochial school field trips. The key element in deciding which form of state aid was considered constitutional was whether the aid could be construed as “advancing religion.” Far from a landmark case, the indecisive nature of the decision left school district officials in complete confusion over what equipment and services they could or could not share with or lend to parochial schools.

(See also Aguilar v. Felton; church-state conflicts; Everson v. Board of Education; MEEK V. PITTINGER; MITCHELL V. HELMS.)

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