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Private School Vouchers? Thanks, But No Thanks

Aleksandr Sverdlik,
Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief
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February 2, 2015

Claiming that they merely want to improve students’ educational options, “school choice” proponents observed “National School Choice Week” over the past seven days. “School choice” may sound innocuous, but more often than not, a cry for “school choice” is a cry for private school vouchers – a reckless scheme that results in neither quality education nor real choice.

That’s why the ACLU joined with allies Friday to file a friend-of-the-court brief opposing a North Carolina voucher program. As we explain in the brief, vouchers undermine the separation of church and state. They do this by shifting millions of taxpayer dollars from public schools – which are open to all, regardless of faith – to private schools, the vast majority of which are religious. In turn, taxpayer funds directly support religious instruction – and not just in theology class, but in biology class, history class, and even math class.

In North Carolina, for example, private religious schools are not required to comply with the same academic standards applied to public schools, and many use Christian textbooks published by Bob Jones University Press and Accelerated Christian Education. These publishers have produced textbooks teaching, among other inaccurate lessons, that “[d]inosaurs and humans were definitely on the earth at the same time and may even have lived side by side within the past few thousand years.” What’s more, private religious schools can and do discriminate, for example by excluding students on the basis of religion, sexual orientation, or disability.

The principles of religious liberty undoubtedly mean that parents may choose to send their children to private, religious schools. Religious freedom does not require, however, that taxpayers foot the bill. Our taxpayer dollars should not support religious schools that seek, as one school proudly proclaims, to “teach all subjects from a biblical worldview.”

School Choice Week may have come to an end, but the threat that vouchers pose to our children and our civil rights remains.

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