Despite the fact that voucher subsidies for religious schools undermine church-state separation, hurt the public schools, are opposed by voters and have not improved student performance, they keep popping up around the country.
The latest is a voucher program being considered in Colorado’s third largest school district.
The Douglas County School District is considering a plan that would give parents a check to pay for tuition at a religious or other private school. The check would be 75 percent of the $6,542 in public per-pupil funding that comes from state and local taxes. The remaining 25 percent will go to the district.
Yesterday, according to the Denver Post, a large crowd gathered at the school district’s boardroom to voice their opinions. Attendees were split on whether they approved of the plan, and the board claims it is a long way off from making a decision.
Another hearing about vouchers will be held on December 7, and Americans United members living in the area plan to provide testimony.
In the meantime, Americans United’s legislative department has submitted a letter to school board members, urging them to oppose the proposal, which is called the Option Certificate Program (OCP).
Our letter makes it clear that the proposed scheme will allow public funds to pay for religious activities and instruction.
In addition, American United points out that the OCP does not prohibit students who live in the school district but already attend private schools from enrolling in the public schools in order to a obtain a voucher.
“[I]t seems logical that most, if not all, of current private-school students will seek the subsidy to attend their current religious schools at reduced cost to their families,” AU’s letter asserts.
“As a result, thousands of new students will be added to the District’s rolls, increasing education costs for the State.
“Essentially,” the letter continues, “the program would take a great deal of money from
all Colorado taxpayers, including those in Douglas County, to pay for the vouchers and for the
increased funding for the District itself. This seems like an irresponsible way to increase funding for the District.”
Vouchers are clearly a bad idea all around, and most people in Colorado already know it. In 2004, the state’s Supreme Court struck down a statewide voucher program and voters have overwhelmingly opposed any voucher referenda that have appeared on election ballots.
I hope this school board takes the hint.
Sadly, with the changes in Congress and the state legislatures, we’re expecting many more battles across the country over vouchers. Keep a close eye out for developments in your community and state.