The School Choice Myth and Our (Literal) Case Against It

Opportunity in education. Effective education options for every child. Stimulating educational environments. Every year at the end of January, the proponents of National School Choice Week emphasize these ideals as reasons that parents, educators, and policymakers should support school voucher and tax credit programs.

By appealing to the core aspirations for reform desired among the education community, the school choice movement masks the fact that these programs do not actually offer the benefits their supporters tout. Instead, voucher and tax credit programs typically funnel taxpayer funds into private and often religious schools that are free to discriminate against students on a variety of grounds and are exempt from meeting the same educational requirements as public schools.

In previous years, the ACLU has pointed out the significant and fundamental flaws of these programs. Beyond classroom material, private religious schools can and do discriminate, for example, by excluding students on the basis of religion, sexual orientation, or disability. Unfortunately, parents and educators are still being sold on the school choice myth in 2016.

We are currently challenging Nevada’s newly established “Education Savings Account” program that takes public funds — which would otherwise go toward public schools that welcome all students and adhere to educational standards — and diverts them to vouchers for private-school tuition. As in many states with such programs, the majority of private schools are religious. That means the schools employ a wide variety of curricula, daily practices, and admission and hiring requirements not acceptable in public schools.

For example, in Nevada, Liberty Baptist Academy uses a textbook “based on the truth of God’s word” that refutes evolution and promotes the universe as a “direct creation of God.” Logos Christian Academy disciplines students with corporal punishment. Bishop Gorman High School may dismiss students if they have had an abortion or helped someone obtain one. International Christian Academy will reject or disenroll a student who is gay or bisexual. Many of these schools require religious worship from the students on a daily or weekly basis, can require parents to adhere to a statement of faith or attend the school’s church, and require certain beliefs and conduct from teachers.

Under the Nevada program, voucher money can also go toward non-instructional activities, such as purchasing Bibles or funding renovations for the school’s sponsoring church. This is not only bad policy, but, as we argue in our lawsuit, it also violates the Nevada Constitution. The state constitution specifically states that “[n]o public funds of any kind or character … shall be used for sectarian purpose.”

Parents have the right to send their children to a private school and to provide a religious education for them at their own expense. But taxpayers are not and should not be obligated to fund that decision.

During this School Choice Week, remember that true educational opportunity does not come from a program that takes public money to support schools that can discriminate and indoctrinate. It comes from a robust system of public schools that can provide a free, quality education to students from all religions and backgrounds.

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Anonymous

"It comes from a robust system of public schools that can provide a free, quality education to students from all religions and backgrounds."

Perhaps the ACLU can also explain the "quality education" myth that many seem to believe in 2016.

Anonymous

I'm really trying to add this all up and find the solution of "quality education" but this common core muck isn't giving the right answer...

Anonymous

I'll admit, I have *zero* faith in the various private and charter schools out there. Even setting aside the cases mentioned above of the complete lack of educational standards, and rampant discrimination, many of them are run by (literal) fly-by-night companies that can fail to deliver, declare bankruptcy, and be setting up another school in another state within days.
That said...public education in this country is a goddamn joke. It 's a situation that starts out kinda bad, and then just gets worse and worse as you look at poorer and poorer school districts.
The entire system needs some sort of fix. I have no idea what kind of fix that is, though I will note that, in both sides of the system, the problem seems to stem from not having any idea how to hold educators accountable. In public schools, we have Common Core, which is both terrible and ineffective. And in the private schools, we have...absolutely nothing. Neither is very encouraging.

Anonymous

Just offering a perspective from the other side. My son, from 3rd grade to 5th grade, in public school, was being teased. The school's response was tepid. We decided to send him to a very high-end quality private school (in this case, nonreligious -- in fact, it was a school focusing on math and science, which he loves). It cost a fortune, even though he received a scholarship. Imagine my surprise to find that we could not deduct the cost of his education from our taxable income. No, we were paying school taxes and tuition both. Somehow that just doesn't seem right. Our local public school hardly had any science curriculum at all until grade 4. No enrichment until grade four either. My son hated school until he went to private school.

Anonymous

As I recall the US Supreme Court A ruling several years ago How about Arizona's Voucher program And it was a five to four decision Saying That Opponents Lack standing And I remember that ACLU Coming out And criticizing that ruling. So why does the ACLU Continue to su When they obviously lack standing? Anyway the ACLU Better known as the Anti Christian Liberties Union Only Has one goal in And that is punish And to ridicule and destroy every aspect of Christianity. They would never do this to Islam because It is a colored person religion

Anonymous

Nice try the ACLU is against the wholesale transfer of public taxes to any religious schools that are unaccountable to the state.

The same goes for private schools that do not have to meet the same standards as public schools. So why do you have a problem with that.

If it were not for the ACLU and other such organizations your right to free speech would have been quashed long ago.

If you actually took a long at what cases the ACLU has defended since its inception you would appreciate the organization provided you actually believe in the 1st Amendment.

Anonymous

Can you please also remove Section 8, it creates bad neighbors where slum lords make money and keep the area down in housing because there are only a few places in any city that will take it, people do not have a choice to live any where else. So, they are left to send their children to public school which also has nothing to offer. This needs to stop because there is no growth in the community of anything better. Section 8 is awful and should be done away with.

Anonymous

Not true I have a home in a community that is far from the inner city. Our community participates in the section program. There are zero slums in our planned community. Know what you know before you speak.

Anonymous

Because the ACLU is in bed with the Teachers Unions I can see you don't want public funds to private schools.It's taxpayers money and parents should be able to take their share and take it to any school they want.

Anonymous

So taxpayer money should go to promote a religion? Do you agree on sending tax payer money to support Islamic and Hindi schools as well? Im sure you're ok with a school that teaches students Allah is the one true God and Jesus was one of the prophets, right?

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