States and school districts around the country are increasingly implementing private school voucher programs and tuition tax credit programs that provide public tax dollars for students to attend private schools in lieu of their local public schools. While these programs are often designed to expand the educational options available to many low-income families, they have also raised serious civil liberties and civil rights concerns.
The ACLU Racial Justice Program monitors voucher programs and other school choice initiatives to ensure that they do not lead to new types of educational inequity or further perpetuate school segregation. In 2011, for instance, we filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice requesting an investigation of systematic discrimination against and exclusion of students with disabilities by private schools accepting vouchers in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, whose voucher program is among the nation’s oldest. The ACLU Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief has likewise challenged discriminatory voucher programs in a number of contexts, most recently weighing in on North Carolina’s voucher program in early 2015.