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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

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Most Recent Blog Posts
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Love For Sale: Faith-Based Grant Buys TV Preacher's Favor

What a difference four years and $1.5 million makes!

On Feb. 20, 2001, TV preacher Pat Robertson expressed grave concerns about President George W. Bush's "faith-based" initiative. Addressing his "700 Club" audience, Robertson opined that the scheme could lead religious groups to become dependent on government handouts.

"[T]his thing could be a real Pandora's box," Robertson said. "And what seems to be such a great initiative can rise up to bite the organizations as well as the federal government. And I'm a little concerned about it, frankly."

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The treatment of prisoners in ongoing American military operations remains a source of deep ethical concern. In addition to the questions of torture and the application of established international law, recent revelations from the military prisons at Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere present important issues about the role of religion in the debate.

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Lugar, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, asked that we steel ourselves for the result. "Now, from our standpoint, the United States' standpoint, we may or may not be pleased with the final results of the constitution," he said.

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Having spent last year diligently supporting George W. Bush's reelection campaign, the Religious Right's political brigades expected that the president would remember them when shaping his second-term agenda.

As 2005 began, President Bush traveled across the country campaigning hard for his policy priorities. But as right-wing activists listened to his statements, they didn't hear what they had hoped for: somehow Social Security privatization had replaced a ban on gay marriage and abortion curbs as a top-tier agenda item.

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James Dobson recently announced his discovery that another insidious homosexual media take-over is in the offing. Since Jerry Falwell famously outed Tinky Winky, the purple Teletubby, the trail had grown cold. Speaking at a black-tie dinner for members of Congress and political allies, Dobson revealed his epiphany with a simple question: "Does anyone here know SpongeBob?"

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Two of the nation's leading newspapers, The New York Times and The Washington Post, have published strong editorials opposing the introduction of "intelligent design" creationism into public school science classes. The editorials focus, in part, on the lawsuit - brought by Americans United and the ACLU - challenging promotion of the religiously grounded concept in the Dover, Pa., schools.

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'Tis the season for prospective candidates to start putting feelers out for elections to be held this year, next year or even for presidential races in the distant future. It is in this spirit that Ralph Reed is said to be seeking the job of Georgia lieutenant governor.

According to the Washington Times, "Associates say Mr. Reed, 43, whose picture first appeared on the cover of Time magazine nearly 10 years ago, hopes to use the lieutenant governor's job to position himself to run for Georgia governor."

Pages

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

Love For Sale: Faith-Based Grant Buys TV Preacher's Favor

What a difference four years and $1.5 million makes!

On Feb. 20, 2001, TV preacher Pat Robertson expressed grave concerns about President George W. Bush's "faith-based" initiative. Addressing his "700 Club" audience, Robertson opined that the scheme could lead religious groups to become dependent on government handouts.

"[T]his thing could be a real Pandora's box," Robertson said. "And what seems to be such a great initiative can rise up to bite the organizations as well as the federal government. And I'm a little concerned about it, frankly."

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The treatment of prisoners in ongoing American military operations remains a source of deep ethical concern. In addition to the questions of torture and the application of established international law, recent revelations from the military prisons at Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere present important issues about the role of religion in the debate.

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U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) seemed to warn America yesterday that we may be surprised and disappointed by the government that results from this Sunday's election in Iraq. The national assembly that will be elected this weekend is tasked with drafting a constitution for the new Iraqi state.

Lugar, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, asked that we steel ourselves for the result. "Now, from our standpoint, the United States' standpoint, we may or may not be pleased with the final results of the constitution," he said.

Troubled Marriage: Religious Right Threatens To Walk Out On Bush

Having spent last year diligently supporting George W. Bush's reelection campaign, the Religious Right's political brigades expected that the president would remember them when shaping his second-term agenda.

As 2005 began, President Bush traveled across the country campaigning hard for his policy priorities. But as right-wing activists listened to his statements, they didn't hear what they had hoped for: somehow Social Security privatization had replaced a ban on gay marriage and abortion curbs as a top-tier agenda item.

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James Dobson recently announced his discovery that another insidious homosexual media take-over is in the offing. Since Jerry Falwell famously outed Tinky Winky, the purple Teletubby, the trail had grown cold. Speaking at a black-tie dinner for members of Congress and political allies, Dobson revealed his epiphany with a simple question: "Does anyone here know SpongeBob?"

N.Y. Times, Washington Post Flunk 'Intelligent Design'

Two of the nation's leading newspapers, The New York Times and The Washington Post, have published strong editorials opposing the introduction of "intelligent design" creationism into public school science classes. The editorials focus, in part, on the lawsuit - brought by Americans United and the ACLU - challenging promotion of the religiously grounded concept in the Dover, Pa., schools.

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'Tis the season for prospective candidates to start putting feelers out for elections to be held this year, next year or even for presidential races in the distant future. It is in this spirit that Ralph Reed is said to be seeking the job of Georgia lieutenant governor.

According to the Washington Times, "Associates say Mr. Reed, 43, whose picture first appeared on the cover of Time magazine nearly 10 years ago, hopes to use the lieutenant governor's job to position himself to run for Georgia governor."

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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