During this election season, many of us will be voting on more than just national, state and local candidates. We will also encounter state and local ballot questions that are of great importance to our communities.
One such question is Atlantic City’s Ballot Question 3, which asks whether the city should fund a city-wide private school voucher program and create tax credits for homeschool students. As the founder and president of Americans United for Separation of Church and State’s Delaware Valley Chapter, I hope my neighbors in Atlantic City vote will NO because Question 3 is a losing bet.
Study after study shows that voucher programs across the country fail to improve academic achievement or provide greater educational resources. They also lack basic accountability to taxpayers. In addition, schools accepting vouchers do not provide students with the same civil rights and protections that they would otherwise receive in public schools. And, vouchers violate religious freedom by diverting taxpayer dollars predominantly to religious schools.
Private school vouchers and tax credits make even less sense in a city like Atlantic City, which is currently struggling financially. Vouchers funnel public dollars out of the public schools and into private schools. That costs – rather than saves – the city money, as the reduction of students in public schools does not decrease operating costs of those schools. In Milwaukee, for example, the city has had to raise taxes to cover the cost of its city-wide voucher program.
The homeschooling tax credit makes even less financial sense. Indeed, the Press of Atlantic City editorial board called the tax credit “absurd for a bankrupt city,” explaining that “new spending on tax credits hardly seems like part of a responsible financial plan.”
The Atlantic City Education Association agreed, asking, “At a time when the city is struggling to maintain its tax base, why would the city council agree to a tax credit for people who homeschool their children? That would further reduce the city’s tax base at a time when it cannot afford that.”
Taxpayer dollars should fund our public schools, which are open and non-discriminatory in their acceptance of all students regardless of disability, gender, religion, economic status or sexual orientation. It should not fund vouchers for a select few students to attend private schools.
If you are a voter in Atlantic City, I hope you will vote in favor of public schools and vote no on Question 3.
Janice Rael is president of the Delaware Valley Chapter of Americans United.
Don't take the risk! Say no to vouchers in Atlantic City, N.J.