President Donald Trump today proposed a $4.4 trillion federal budget for next year that would slash the Department of Education’s budget by about 5 percent – all while diverting $1 billion of the remaining money to fund private school vouchers and related schemes.

Advancing the misguided top priority set forth by Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, this latest budget proposal would divert a billion dollars in desperately needed public funds to private, mostly religious schools. That’s four times the amount Trump proposed for vouchers in his last budget.

Public money should fund public schools, which educate 90 percent of American schoolchildren. Taxpayers simply can’t afford to fund two education systems – a public one that serves everyone, and a private one that serves only a select few.

Public money should fund public schools, which educate 90 percent of American schoolchildren.

Americans United recently produced a video that outlines how vouchers are bad for students, families, public schools and taxpayers because they undermine public education and religious freedom. Problems with voucher programs include:

  • Private schools accepting vouchers don’t offer students the same civil rights protections required of public schools, particularly for students with disabilities and LGBTQ children.
  • Numerous studies and investigations have found that not only do students using vouchers not improve academically, but in many cases, their academic performance is worse.
  • Voucher proponents mislead families by offering them the premise of choice when it really is private schools that have all the choices because they can pick and choose which students to accept.
  • Vouchers often don’t cover the entire cost of private schools, making private schools unaffordable for many families even with a voucher. And those children who remain in public schools are left with fewer resources because voucher programs drain funding from public schools.
  • Taxpayers should not be compelled to fund religious schools whose teachings they may not agree with.

Despite touting private school vouchers and related schemes for the past year, Trump and DeVos still have not yet laid out exactly how they would spend federal money on vouchers. Rather than using public money to expand existing voucher programs and create new ones, the Education Department should be focused on improving and strengthening our public schools that serve all children.

You can help protect our public schools by urging your members of Congress and state legislators to oppose any private school voucher plans.

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Trump’s budget proposal also continues the administration’s attacks on health care in the name of religion.

It includes language that would prohibit the Department of Health and Human Services from distributing family planning, Medicaid and other federal program funds to health care providers whose services include abortions, even though federal dollars already are prevented from directly funding abortion services. The language represents the far-right’s long-threatened attempt to defund Planned Parenthood, the nation’s leading reproductive health care provider whose health centers serve 2.4 million people annually.

It also would also block federal funding from being used in support of the Washington, D.C., Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Amendment Act (RHNDAA) that protects employees from discrimination based on their reproductive health decisions. Opponents of the D.C.-passed law falsely claim that prohibiting such discrimination violates religious freedom.

These proposals come on the heels of the administration’s recent attempts to allow employers, universities and health care providers to use religion as an excuse to deny women, LGBTQ patients, religious minorities and others access to critical health care. Religious freedom is about fairness. It is not fair to use religion as an excuse to discriminate, especially when a person’s health is on the line.