The Constitutionality of Utah's 2005 Tuition Tax Credit Proposals


The issue of tuition tax credits for private and religious elementary and secondary schools remains a hot button political and legal issue. While the Supreme Court’s decision in Zelman v. Simmons-Harris provided some new parameters on the validity of school choice programs, it certainly did not end both the political and legal debate. In Utah, school choice programs have yet to pass, and come up every winter in the State Legislature.

My Comment analyses the 2005 tuition tax credit proposals through two Constitutional frameworks: the Establishment Clause and the Equal Protection Clause. Traditionally, the Supreme Court has analyzed school choice programs under the Establishment Clause. My analysis concludes that under the rules laid out in Zelman, all three tuition tax credit proposals introduced in the Utah Legislature were valid under the Establishment Clause.

My second line of Constitutional analysis is less traditional. Leveraging off my four years as a tax consultant before attending law school, I analyze the actual effects of the tuition tax credit proposals and scrutinize those effects under the Equal Protect Clause. I conclude that two of three proposals, though well intentioned, treat similarly situated taxpayers in a different manner which is not valid under the Equal Protection Clause. This has serious implications for other state legislatures thinking of implementing tuition tax credits as a mechanism to achieve school choice.


Constitutional Law | Education Law

Date of this Version

April 2006