School voucher advocates are once again re-branding their agenda to try and gain popular support. This week is National “School Choice” Week, a highly organized campaign to promote school voucher programs. Fortunately, this yearly event has led to a forceful response from religious liberty advocates and other opponents of school vouchers on social media (#voucherfail) and elsewhere. The truth is, school vouchers are unpopular, don’t work, drain public school resources, and send taxpayer money flowing to religious schools.
At the blog of Americans United, Maggie Garrett urges readers not to “buy the lie” that this week is about school choice. She links extensively to evidence of school voucher schemes failing students, parents and taxpayers, and points out that Congress will likely consider voucher-related funding issues in February when the Elementary and Secondary Education Act is marked up.
The Baptist Joint Committee has long opposed school vouchers because they allow public money to be used for religious purpose. Most recently the BJC filed a brief in the Colorado Supreme Court opposing a school voucher system in that state.
Religious education is an important expression of religious liberty for many people. But they should stand on their own, and not on the financial shoulders of taxpayers. Robust religious liberty should allow taxpayers the confidence that funding the government does not include funding religion. This separation is a good arrangement for the taxpayer as well as for religious schools, which can operate free of the strings that attach (rightly so) to government funding.
Stay tuned to this blog – here and on Twitter (@bjcblog) – for more church-state perspective as school voucher battles heat up and court decisions are released this year. You can see previous posts on school vouchers here.