Mar 30, 2011

Today’s U.S. House vote in favor of a $100 million giveaway to religious schools wastes taxpayer dollars and undermines the public school system, says Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

The House voted 225-195 for a school voucher program that pays for tuition at religious and other private schools in the District of Columbia. Critics say H.R. 471, introduced and aggressively pushed by House Speaker John Boehner, would reauthorize and expand a failed voucher “experiment” begun during the George W. Bush administration.

Said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director, “A $100 million congressional giveaway to religious and other private schools is not going to help reduce the budget deficit. This wastes taxpayer dollars and undermines the public schools.

“For the past few months,” Lynn continued, “we’ve heard a constant drumbeat in Congress of ‘we’re broke; we have to slash domestic spending.’ Now we have House members voting for a taxpayer bailout of parochial schools. It’s hypocritical, and every taxpayer ought to be outraged.

“I’m especially astounded by the Tea Party members in the House,” Lynn added. “They claim to want to cut the federal budget and leave decision-making to the states and communities. Yet here they are voting for a failed federal program that tramples on local government in the District of Columbia.”

Lynn noted that repeated studies show that the voucher program produced no significant gains in academic performance. In addition, it subsidizes religious schools that indoctrinate children in one faith and discriminate in hiring against qualified applicants on grounds of religion.

The D.C. voucher scheme has officially ended, but currently participating students are allowed to continue until they graduate. Most of the taxpayer money for tuition goes to Catholic parochial schools, but evangelical, Adventist, Episcopal, Quaker and Islamic schools also benefit from the federal largesse.

Lynn said the congressional battle over vouchers is far from over.

“I am confident,” he said, “that the U.S. Senate will reject this misguided scheme. Americans who believe in church-state separation and the public school system must make their voices heard now.”