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Americans United opposes private school vouchers because they are a threat to public education and religious freedom.

Vouchers—whether disguised as a scholarship, tuition tax credit or an education savings account—primarily fund religious schools. This violates the fundamental principle that taxpayer funds should never pay for religious education.

In addition, vouchers don’t work: they don’t improve educational outcomes, they lack accountability and oversight, and they fund schools that discriminate. They don’t give parents a “choice,” but instead allow private schools to pick and choose students. And, at the same time, they divert public dollars from public schools.


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Types of Vouchers

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Types of Vouchers


A Voucher By Any Other Name… Across the country lawmakers are introducing private school voucher bills that are disguised as something else. Although they may call them scholarships, tuition tax credits, education savings accounts, or portability provisions, these proposals are all really just private school voucher schemes. They all undermine public schools and divert money away from public schools to help private and religious schools.

  • Vouchers

A voucher (sometimes called a “scholarship”) is a handout of taxpayer dollars for private school tuition: The government writes a check sending taxpayer money to a private school.  

  • Tuition Tax Credits (TTCs)

TTCs are backdoor vouchers.  Under this scheme, individuals or corporations receive a tax credit in exchange for giving money to an intermediary organization, often called a “scholarship organization.” Then, the “scholarship organization” writes a check for tuition at a private school. In short, rather than collecting taxes and then giving a portion to a private school (a voucher), the government forgoes those tax dollars so long as they go to a private school (a TTC). The end is the same—money funneled to private schools and away from public schools.

  • Education Savings Accounts or Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (ESAs)

ESAs, like TTCs, are backdoor vouchers. Under the typical ESA proposal, when parents decide to send their children to private schools, withdrawing from public school, the state writes a check from the money allocated for educating those children in public school to an “education savings account.” Parents then use that taxpayer money to pay for private school tuition and thus taxpayer funds “follow the child” even when the child is not attending public school.

  • Title I Portability

Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act is designed to provide extra funding to public schools serving students in areas with high concentrations of poverty. Title I “portability” are proposals to dismantle the existing program and turn it into a private school voucher: the money to help these public schools would instead “follow the child” to private schools. Some schemes would—initially—“follow the child” only to public schools, but even those programs would dilute the power of the funds and reduce their effectiveness. 

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State Legislation


Americans United has been fighting state legislation that would create or expand private school voucher and voucher-like programs for decades. Each year we oppose dozens of bills that would create vouchers, education savings accounts and tuition tax credits.


Federal Legislation
 

Americans United is a leader in the fight against federally funded private school voucher programs and serves as a co-chair of the National Coalition for Public Education (NCPE). NCPE is a coalition of more than 50 national organizations that support public schools and oppose private school vouchers. The coalition believes that public funds should go to public schools.

We have successfully fought nearly every attempt by Congress to create voucher programs. For example, in 2015, when Congress reauthorized the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which is the law that governs the federally funded programs for K-12 education, we fought off several provisions that would have created federal voucher and voucher-like programs.

Nonetheless, over a decade ago, Congress forced the creation of a voucher program for the District of Columbia, which is the only federally funded voucher program in the country. Congress has continued to reauthorize it despite its clear failures—including four U.S. Department of Education studies showing that it does not improve academic achievement. We will continue to fight this program and point out its shortfalls.

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Litigation

 

Duncan v. Nevada

Nevada’s voucher program is the most extensive in the country, authorizing any child who has attended a Nevada public school for 100 days to receive a voucher that is worth approximately $5,000 and that is drawn from the state’s public-school account. Once their child has a voucher, parents can then use voucher funding to purchase religious education at religious private schools. Americans United, along with allied organizations, filed suit on behalf of several Nevada taxpayers who objected to this use of their tax money. We challenged the voucher law under the Nevada Constitution, which forbids using public money for a sectarian purpose.

 

Larue v. Douglas County School District

The Douglas County voucher program authorized 500 students to use state, per-pupil education funds, which had been earmarked for the public-school system, as vouchers to attend private religious schools. In 2011, Americans United filed a lawsuit on behalf of Colorado taxpayers to challenge the voucher program. In June 2015, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled in our favor, holding that the program violates a provision of the Colorado Constitution that forbids using taxpayer funds to finance religious schools.

 

McCall v. Scott

Although the Florida Supreme Court struck down the state’s school-voucher program in 2006, the Florida legislature has also enacted a tax-credit program that accomplishes essentially the same ends: use public dollars to finance education at religious private schools. In 2014, Americans United filed suit against the tax-credit program, arguing that it violates provisions of the Florida constitution pertaining to public education and the funding of religion.

 

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All the most recent posts from AU's Wall of Separation Blog & The Protect Thy Neighbor Blog

Trump And DeVos Are About To Propose Federal Funding For School Vouchers

Today marks 100 days since Michigan billionaire and school voucher proponent Betsy DeVos took over the reins as President Donald J. Trump’s Secretary of Education. If there’s one thing she’s accomplished in that time, she’s demonstrated her perseverance in pushing for vouchers.

Trump Endangers National Security, And The Religious Right Just Yawns

Let’s engage in a thought experiment: Pretend that it’s May of 2009, and Barack Obama, who has been president for a few months, has just shared some highly classified intelligence with the Russians. Let’s say this material has damaged America’s standing with our allies, exposed sources to possible retaliation and jeopardized the war on terror.

What do you think the leaders of Religious Right groups would be saying? My guess is they’d be calling for his impeachment, if not outright imprisonment.

A Mo. Superintendent Decided To Preach During Graduation, And Students Are Letting Him Know It Was Inappropriate

Some Missouri public high school students are asking for an apology after their superintendent sermonized during their graduation ceremony on Saturday. 

Willard High School seniors stated that Superintendent Kent Medlin’s comments, which included prayers, were inappropriate and exclusive to Christians. (They’re also unconstitutional since the U.S. Supreme Court deemed it a violation of the First Amendment for public school officials to pray at school-sponsored events like graduation.)

Senators See Danger In Trump’s ‘Religious Freedom’ Executive Order

When President Donald J. Trump signed an executive order last week, he claimed it would protect religious freedom. The order instead tramples it. Here’s why: it weaken the protections for houses of worship and may open the door to discrimination against LGBTQ individuals, women, religious minorities and others under the guise of religious freedom.

A Creationist Is Demanding That The Park Service Allow Him To Do ‘Research’ At The Grand Canyon

Answers in Genesis (AiG), Ken Ham’s fundamentalist Religious Right organization, is at it again. This time, the group is making claims that officials at the National Park Service discriminated against an AiG staff member because of his religious beliefs.

Faith Voices: Faith Leaders Are Speaking Out Against Trump’s Plan To ‘Destroy’ The Johnson Amendment

Americans United is unique because we bring religious and non-religious people together to defend the church-state wall.

On many of our issues, these folks may bring different arguments to the table, but they all end up in the same place because church-state separation is key to ensuring religious freedom for people of faith and non-believers alike.

Pages

Most Recent Blog Posts
All the most recent posts from AU's Wall of Separation Blog & The Protect Thy Neighbor Blog

Trump And DeVos Are About To Propose Federal Funding For School Vouchers

Today marks 100 days since Michigan billionaire and school voucher proponent Betsy DeVos took over the reins as President Donald J. Trump’s Secretary of Education. If there’s one thing she’s accomplished in that time, she’s demonstrated her perseverance in pushing for vouchers.

Trump Endangers National Security, And The Religious Right Just Yawns

Let’s engage in a thought experiment: Pretend that it’s May of 2009, and Barack Obama, who has been president for a few months, has just shared some highly classified intelligence with the Russians. Let’s say this material has damaged America’s standing with our allies, exposed sources to possible retaliation and jeopardized the war on terror.

What do you think the leaders of Religious Right groups would be saying? My guess is they’d be calling for his impeachment, if not outright imprisonment.

A Mo. Superintendent Decided To Preach During Graduation, And Students Are Letting Him Know It Was Inappropriate

Some Missouri public high school students are asking for an apology after their superintendent sermonized during their graduation ceremony on Saturday. 

Willard High School seniors stated that Superintendent Kent Medlin’s comments, which included prayers, were inappropriate and exclusive to Christians. (They’re also unconstitutional since the U.S. Supreme Court deemed it a violation of the First Amendment for public school officials to pray at school-sponsored events like graduation.)

Senators See Danger In Trump’s ‘Religious Freedom’ Executive Order

When President Donald J. Trump signed an executive order last week, he claimed it would protect religious freedom. The order instead tramples it. Here’s why: it weaken the protections for houses of worship and may open the door to discrimination against LGBTQ individuals, women, religious minorities and others under the guise of religious freedom.

A Creationist Is Demanding That The Park Service Allow Him To Do ‘Research’ At The Grand Canyon

Answers in Genesis (AiG), Ken Ham’s fundamentalist Religious Right organization, is at it again. This time, the group is making claims that officials at the National Park Service discriminated against an AiG staff member because of his religious beliefs.

Faith Voices: Faith Leaders Are Speaking Out Against Trump’s Plan To ‘Destroy’ The Johnson Amendment

Americans United is unique because we bring religious and non-religious people together to defend the church-state wall.

On many of our issues, these folks may bring different arguments to the table, but they all end up in the same place because church-state separation is key to ensuring religious freedom for people of faith and non-believers alike.

Pages

Most Recent Blog Posts
All the most recent posts from AU's Wall of Separation Blog & The Protect Thy Neighbor Blog

Trump And DeVos Are About To Propose Federal Funding For School Vouchers

Today marks 100 days since Michigan billionaire and school voucher proponent Betsy DeVos took over the reins as President Donald J. Trump’s Secretary of Education. If there’s one thing she’s accomplished in that time, she’s demonstrated her perseverance in pushing for vouchers.

Trump Endangers National Security, And The Religious Right Just Yawns

Let’s engage in a thought experiment: Pretend that it’s May of 2009, and Barack Obama, who has been president for a few months, has just shared some highly classified intelligence with the Russians. Let’s say this material has damaged America’s standing with our allies, exposed sources to possible retaliation and jeopardized the war on terror.

What do you think the leaders of Religious Right groups would be saying? My guess is they’d be calling for his impeachment, if not outright imprisonment.

A Mo. Superintendent Decided To Preach During Graduation, And Students Are Letting Him Know It Was Inappropriate

Some Missouri public high school students are asking for an apology after their superintendent sermonized during their graduation ceremony on Saturday. 

Willard High School seniors stated that Superintendent Kent Medlin’s comments, which included prayers, were inappropriate and exclusive to Christians. (They’re also unconstitutional since the U.S. Supreme Court deemed it a violation of the First Amendment for public school officials to pray at school-sponsored events like graduation.)

Senators See Danger In Trump’s ‘Religious Freedom’ Executive Order

When President Donald J. Trump signed an executive order last week, he claimed it would protect religious freedom. The order instead tramples it. Here’s why: it weaken the protections for houses of worship and may open the door to discrimination against LGBTQ individuals, women, religious minorities and others under the guise of religious freedom.

A Creationist Is Demanding That The Park Service Allow Him To Do ‘Research’ At The Grand Canyon

Answers in Genesis (AiG), Ken Ham’s fundamentalist Religious Right organization, is at it again. This time, the group is making claims that officials at the National Park Service discriminated against an AiG staff member because of his religious beliefs.

Faith Voices: Faith Leaders Are Speaking Out Against Trump’s Plan To ‘Destroy’ The Johnson Amendment

Americans United is unique because we bring religious and non-religious people together to defend the church-state wall.

On many of our issues, these folks may bring different arguments to the table, but they all end up in the same place because church-state separation is key to ensuring religious freedom for people of faith and non-believers alike.

Pages

Press Releases
Church & State
July/August 2017 Church & State

Trump's Voucher Onslaught

Trump And DeVos Push Private School Tax Aid Scheme, But The Details Of Their Plan Remain Vague

May 2017 Church & State

Save Our Schools!

Americans Oppose Trump-DeVos Plans To ‘Voucherize’ Education

March 2017 Church & State

States Of Emergency

Legislation That Threatens Church-State Separation Is Pending In Half The Country

March 2017 Church & State

Bad Choice

Mich. Billionaire Voucher Advocate Betsy DeVos Takes Charge At The U.S. Department Of Education