Zelman v. Simmons-Harris, 536 U.S. 639, 16 (2002)

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Opinion of the Court

gious and secular beneficiaries on a nondiscriminatory basis." Agostini, supra, at 231. The program here in fact creates financial disincentives for religious schools, with private schools receiving only half the government assistance given to community schools and one-third the assistance given to magnet schools. Adjacent public schools, should any choose to accept program students, are also eligible to receive two to three times the state funding of a private religious school. Families too have a financial disincentive to choose a private religious school over other schools. Parents that choose to participate in the scholarship program and then to enroll their children in a private school (religious or nonreligious) must copay a portion of the school's tuition. Families that choose a community school, magnet school, or traditional public school pay nothing. Although such features of the program are not necessary to its constitutionality, they clearly dispel the claim that the program "creates . . . financial incentive[s] for parents to choose a sectarian school." Zobrest, 509 U. S., at 10.3

Respondents suggest that even without a financial incentive for parents to choose a religious school, the program creates a "public perception that the State is endorsing religious practices and beliefs." Brief for Respondents Simmons-Harris et al. 37-38. But we have repeatedly rec-3 Justice Souter suggests the program is not "neutral" because program students cannot spend scholarship vouchers at traditional public schools. Post, at 697-698 (dissenting opinion). This objection is mistaken: Public schools in Cleveland already receive $7,097 in public funding per pupil—$4,167 of which is attributable to the State. App. 56a. Program students who receive tutoring aid and remain enrolled in traditional public schools therefore direct almost twice as much state funding to their chosen school as do program students who receive a scholarship and attend a private school. Ibid. Justice Souter does not seriously claim that the program differentiates based on the religious status of beneficiaries or providers of services, the touchstone of neutrality under the Establishment Clause. Mitchell v. Helms, 530 U. S. 793, 809 (2000) (plurality opinion); id., at 838 (O'Connor, J., concurring in judgment).

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