Religious Minorities

Private School Voucher Plans Force Us To Subsidize Strange – And Sometimes Dangerous – Policies

  Rob Boston

Americans United opposes private school vouchers because most private schools are religious, which means that under these schemes, taxpayers are forced to subsidize religious instruction. We firmly believe that the propagation of any religion rests with the members of that faith, not the taxpayers. Vouchers are a backdoor form of the church taxes of old.

That’s reason enough to oppose them. But there are a host of other problems with vouchers. For one, taxpayers can be compelled to support schools with some strange, offensive – and even dangerous – beliefs and practices.

Consider Centner Academy in Miami. The private school captured headlines recently after it announced that students who receive COVID vaccines would have to undergo 30 days of quarantine before returning to class.

That’s not a typo. The quarantine applies to vaccinated students. Officials at Centner believe that vaccines could create “potential transmission or shedding onto others.” (Just in case you’re wondering, that’s not a thing that can happen.)

This is not Centner’s first brush with anti-vaccination hysteria. As CNN reported, earlier this year, “CEO and co-founder, Leila Centner, sent a letter to faculty and staff at the Centner Academy citing unsupported assertions about Covid-19 vaccines that contradicted a large body of evidence of the vaccines’ safety and efficacy from health experts.”

The school’s website recycles debunked anti-vaccination claims, asserting, “Rather than helping children’s immune systems, there is a large belief in the United States that the excess of mandatory vaccines is actually damaging them.”  

Here’s the kicker: Centner takes part in Florida’s voucher program. This means all of the state’s taxpayers are subsidizing its dangerous anti-science views. (The school also received $800,000 under the federal Paycheck Protection Program, the first COVID relief package.)

But it doesn’t stop with Centner. Under voucher plans, everyone pays for fundamentalist academies that teach creationism in lieu of actual science. Everyone pays for schools that teach the “Christian nation” myth. Everyone pays for schools that attack LGBTQ people. Everyone pays for schools that mock women’s rights. Everyone pays for schools that treat non-Christians like second-class people. Everyone pays for schools that discriminate. 

Everyone pays, but no one has a voice to stop any of this. Unlike public schools, which are accountable to the people through democratically elected boards, private schools don’t have the answer to us. Public schools must follow innumerable state and federal laws. Private schools don’t. If a public school teacher or official goes astray, there are mechanisms in place to fix things. That’s not the case in private schools.

The leadership at Centner believes and spreads medically inaccurate information and espouses views that actually put the surrounding community at risk. That is bad enough. Forcing Florida taxpayers to subsidize it is nothing short of scandalous.

Photo: Screenshot of Centner Academy from WPLG-TV, Miami

Congress needs to hear from you!

Urge your legislators to co-sponsor the Do No Harm Act today.

The Do No Harm Act will help ensure that our laws are a shield to protect religious freedom and not used as a sword to harm others by undermining civil rights laws and denying access to health care.

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