House Passes Troubling Bill Authorizing Federal Funds For D.C. School Vouchers

March 30, 2011

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 30, 2011

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CONTACT: Mandy Simon, (202) 675-2312; media@dcaclu.org 

WASHINGTON – The House today passed a troubling bill that would reauthorize and expand a program to provide federal funds for private and religious school vouchers in the District of Columbia. The bill, H.R. 471, the Scholarships for Opportunity Results Act, was introduced by Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH). Companion legislation is currently pending in the Senate.

The American Civil Liberties Union has strong objections to the voucher program based on First Amendment principles, including the prohibition against government-funded religious discrimination.

The voucher program allows private and religious schools to take federal funds while infusing their curricula with specific religious content without being subject to many federal, state and local civil rights statutes that protect students from discrimination. Schools that participate in the voucher program are exempt from complying with laws like the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. Since the principal recipients of these federal voucher funds are private religious schools, Americans’ tax dollars are going toward schools that bring specific religious content into their curricula.

The following can be attributed to Laura W. Murphy, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office:

“Federal funds should mean adherence to federal law and that is simply not the case with voucher programs. These programs are fundamentally unfair because students in voucher programs are not guaranteed the same civil rights protections as their public school counterparts.

Once government dollars come into play, it becomes impossible to avoid using those funds for religious activity or favoring one religious program over another. Our nation’s students shouldn’t have to choose between their civil rights and a quality education.”

The ACLU’s letter opposing today’s bill can be found here: www.aclu.org/religion-belief/aclu-letter-house-opposing-hr-471-scholarships-opportunity-results-soar-act

 

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