“National School Choice Week” may be winding down, but there is still much work to be done to ensure that your tax dollars aren’t used to fund religious schools through voucher schemes.
You’ve heard a lot from Americans United this week about the truth behind “school choice.” So by now you may be aware that this whole “School Choice Week” publicity stunt is really about vouchers, and vouchers aren’t really about improving educational choices for anyone.
In reality, the only people who get to makes choices are the schools. They get to decide which students they will admit. They get to decide what to teach them. They get to decide who will teach there. They even get to decide if they want to impose theology onto students.
Unfortunately, it has become increasingly clear just how many schools that accept voucher students are using public funds to teach fundamentalist dogma. This week, Slate published a map showing the location of thousands of publicly funded schools in the United States that are permitted to teach creationism. Most of those schools get their taxpayer funds thanks to vouchers. Many of these schools are sectarian.
The map paints a bleak picture. At present, 13 states (Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Wisconsin) plus the District of Columbia have multiple schools running publicly funded creationist schemes.
(The biggest offenders are Tennessee and Louisiana. Both states have laws that allow creationism to be taught at any school, public or private, despite a 1987 Supreme Court ruling that barred creationist teachings from public institutions.)
As you can see, things are already pretty bad when it comes to public support of religious schools through vouchers. And the situation is likely to get worse. In 2013 alone, 15 states either expanded or created voucher or “neo-voucher” programs — systems of generous tax credits that are vouchers by another name. There is no reason to believe this trend won’t continue in 2014 as misguided lawmakers and deep-pocketed voucher advocates work together to force their ideology on the public.
That’s why Americans United needs your help, even after “National School Choice Week” comes to an end. There are so many schemes that pop up at any given time, we can’t always find out about them on our own. That’s why we need supporters of strong public education and church-state separation to remain alert and vigilant.
If you see something fishy, let us know. We oppose vouchers year round, and we’ll work hard to make sure your tax dollars aren’t used to fund religious education.
For more information, visit AU’s voucher resource page.