Voucher Mania!

Act now and tell your Senator to oppose school vouchers!

School Voucher Legislation is popping up all over on both the state and federal level. As we’ve written about many times, vouchers are extremely problematic.

They funnel taxpayer money away from public schools to primarily religious schools, violating our country’s commitment to the separation of church and state. Not only that, but vouchers are ineffective, unregulated, and often lack civil rights protections.

The Senate is currently considering the Fiscal 2014 Budget Resolution, and we expect them to consider at least two amendments that would create a private school voucher program. Votes on these important amendments are likely to begin Friday at 3pm, so act now and tell your Senator to oppose school vouchers and support public schools!

Legislation to allow school vouchers comes in many forms: an actual voucher for tuition, a tuition tax credit, or repealing a state’s no aid provision to allow state money to fund private schools. Here is some voucher legislation AU has been working on in the states:

·         Alaska SJR 9/HJR 1 amends the Alaska Constitution to allow the state to fund private and religious school tuition. The House held hearings February 22nd and March 1st, and the Senate held hearings March 15th and 18th. The Senate Judiciary Committee will review this legislation again March 22nd and 25th. If you live in Alaska, take action here!

·         Arkansas HB 1897 creates a general school voucher program, whereas HB 2260 creates a voucher program specifically for students with special needs. Unfortunately, vouchers are more likely to weaken education for students with special needs and strip away important rights and protections, including those in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). AU submitted a letter on behalf of the Arkansas chapter and members opposing both bills.

·         Hawaii SB 1084/HB 853 proposes a constitutional amendment to permit the appropriation of public funds for private early childhood education programs, including religious schools. The Hawaii Constitution should not be stripped of its church-state protections. And, although AU has not taken a position on universal pre-kindergarten programs, we do oppose taxpayer funding of religious schools. AU submitted testimony and sent out an action alert to its Hawaii members.

·         Kansas HB 2400 enacts a tuition tax credit program, which essentially creates a “backdoor voucher” using potential taxpayer money to pay for private and religious schools. Vickie Stangl submitted a letter of opposition on behalf of AU’s Kansas Chapter and members.

·         Minnesota SB 481/HB 1058 creates a scholarship program for children in pre-kindergarten, putting government funds toward religious schools. AU submitted testimony on behalf of its Minnesota members opposing this legislation as drafted and urging changes to the bill’s language specifying that money may not go to sectarian schools.

·         Tennessee SB 196 would create a state-wide voucher program in Tennessee. AU submitted testimony opposing the bill and sent out an action alert to its Tennessee members.

·         Wisconsin AB 40 creates a new voucher program in Wisconsin and expands the current one. AU sent an action alert to its Wisconsin members.

 

To see our action alerts on the state level, check out our new State Action Center!