neo-vouchers » ADL Blogs
Posts Tagged ‘neo-vouchers’
January 29, 2014 Off

National School Choice Week Is Really About Vouchers

It is National School Choice Week (Jan­u­ary 26th – Feb­ru­ary 1st), which sup­port­ers tout as a time to “high­light a vari­ety of school choice options — from tra­di­tional pub­lic schools to pub­lic char­ter schools, mag­net schools, pri­vate schools, online learn­ing, and home­school­ing.”  But the school choice move­ment is pri­mar­ily about fun­nel­ing tax­payer dol­lars to pri­vate schools, includ­ing reli­gious schools, through school vouch­ers and tuition-tax cred­its, also known as neo-vouchers.

Voucher pro­po­nents are ask­ing Amer­i­cans to do some­thing con­trary to the very ideals upon which our nation was founded: to pay taxes to fund reli­gion.  Indeed, vouch­ers require Amer­i­cans of all faiths or no faith to allow their tax dol­lars to be used for the reli­gious indoc­tri­na­tion of chil­dren at schools with nar­row parochial agen­das.  In many pro­grams, 80 per­cent of vouch­ers are used at schools whose cen­tral mis­sion is reli­gious train­ing.  And in such schools, reli­gion per­me­ates the class­room, the lunch­room, even the foot­ball prac­tice field.  Chan­nel­ing pub­lic funds to these insti­tu­tions flies in the face of the con­sti­tu­tional man­date of sep­a­ra­tion of church and state.

Imple­men­ta­tion of voucher pro­grams also sends a clear mes­sage that we are giv­ing up on pub­lic edu­ca­tion.  Vouch­ers may help some stu­dents. But the genius of the Amer­i­can sys­tem of pub­lic edu­ca­tion is that it is for all chil­dren, regard­less of their reli­gion, their aca­d­e­mic tal­ents or their abil­ity to pay a fee.  This pol­icy of inclu­sive­ness has made pub­lic schools the back­bone of Amer­i­can democracy.

Con­trary to this pol­icy of inclu­sive­ness, most school voucher pro­grams allow par­tic­i­pat­ing pri­vate schools to dis­crim­i­nate in some form or another.  For instance, some pro­grams allow schools to reject appli­cants because of low aca­d­e­mic achieve­ment or dis­ci­pline prob­lems.  Other pro­grams per­mit par­tic­i­pat­ing schools to dis­crim­i­nate on the basis of dis­abil­ity, gen­der, reli­gion, sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion and/or gen­der iden­tity.  And some pri­vate schools pro­mote agen­das anti­thet­i­cal to the Amer­i­can ideal.

Pro­po­nents of vouch­ers argue that these pro­grams will allow poor stu­dents to attend good schools pre­vi­ously only avail­able to the mid­dle or upper classes.  But vouch­ers will do noth­ing for poor fam­i­lies who can­not make up the dif­fer­ent between the voucher amount – typ­i­cally around $5,000 – and the typ­i­cally high cost of pri­vate school tuition.

School vouch­ers under­mine two great Amer­i­can tra­di­tions: uni­ver­sal pub­lic edu­ca­tion and the sep­a­ra­tion of church and state.  Instead of embrac­ing vouch­ers, com­mu­ni­ties across the coun­try should ded­i­cate them­selves to find­ing solu­tions that will be avail­able to every Amer­i­can school­child and that take into account the impor­tant legacy of the First Amendment.

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,