In Prairie Village, Kan., controversy erupted last month over a decision by a Catholic school to deny admission to a kindergarten student with same-sex parents. About 1,000 members of St. Ann Parish signed a petition asking church officials to “prayerfully reconsider” their decision to refuse to accept the child.
The issue came to light after a priest at the parish sought advice from officials at the archdiocese, asking whether it would be appropriate to admit the child. Church officials said no, asserting that “same-sex unions are not in conformance with the Church’s teaching on sacramental marriage,” and “the parents cannot model behaviors and attitudes consistent with the Church’s teachings.”
As heartless as they may seem, discriminatory policies like this are common at religious schools. Students can be denied admission or be expelled for being LGBTQ, having same-sex parents, adhering to the “wrong” religion or failing to meet certain religious requirements. Youngsters can find the doors to these schools slammed in their faces because of how they live or, indeed, because of merely who they are.
This Kansas case is a reminder of why the term “school choice” – often used as a more innocuous term to describe private-school voucher programs – is so misleading. The “choice” in this instance lies not with parents, but with the administrators who own and operate private schools. They can deny admission to children for virtually any reason. Unlike public schools, private institutions have no mandate to educate all comers.
President Donald Trump and U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos have backed a scheme to allocate $50 billion over several years to fund a backdoor voucher scheme using a dollar-for-dollar tax credit for individuals and corporations contributing to organizations set up to provide vouchers for students to attend private schools.
This must not become law. Private religious schools serve a private, not a public, interest. Because they do that and engage in blatant forms of discrimination in the process, they don’t deserve one dime of taxpayer funding.