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Americans United opposes private school vouchers because they are a threat to public education and religious freedom.

Vouchers—whether disguised as a scholarship, tuition tax credit or an education savings account—primarily fund religious schools. This violates the fundamental principle that taxpayer funds should never pay for religious education.

In addition, vouchers don’t work: they don’t improve educational outcomes, they lack accountability and oversight, and they fund schools that discriminate. They don’t give parents a “choice,” but instead allow private schools to pick and choose students. And, at the same time, they divert public dollars from public schools.


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Types of Vouchers

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Types of Vouchers


A Voucher By Any Other Name… Across the country lawmakers are introducing private school voucher bills that are disguised as something else. Although they may call them scholarships, tuition tax credits, education savings accounts, or portability provisions, these proposals are all really just private school voucher schemes. They all undermine public schools and divert money away from public schools to help private and religious schools.

  • Vouchers

A voucher (sometimes called a “scholarship”) is a handout of taxpayer dollars for private school tuition: The government writes a check sending taxpayer money to a private school.  

  • Tuition Tax Credits (TTCs)

TTCs are backdoor vouchers.  Under this scheme, individuals or corporations receive a tax credit in exchange for giving money to an intermediary organization, often called a “scholarship organization.” Then, the “scholarship organization” writes a check for tuition at a private school. In short, rather than collecting taxes and then giving a portion to a private school (a voucher), the government forgoes those tax dollars so long as they go to a private school (a TTC). The end is the same—money funneled to private schools and away from public schools.

  • Education Savings Accounts or Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (ESAs)

ESAs, like TTCs, are backdoor vouchers. Under the typical ESA proposal, when parents decide to send their children to private schools, withdrawing from public school, the state writes a check from the money allocated for educating those children in public school to an “education savings account.” Parents then use that taxpayer money to pay for private school tuition and thus taxpayer funds “follow the child” even when the child is not attending public school.

  • Title I Portability

Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act is designed to provide extra funding to public schools serving students in areas with high concentrations of poverty. Title I “portability” are proposals to dismantle the existing program and turn it into a private school voucher: the money to help these public schools would instead “follow the child” to private schools. Some schemes would—initially—“follow the child” only to public schools, but even those programs would dilute the power of the funds and reduce their effectiveness. 

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State Legislation


Americans United has been fighting state legislation that would create or expand private school voucher and voucher-like programs for decades. Each year we oppose dozens of bills that would create vouchers, education savings accounts and tuition tax credits.


Federal Legislation
 

Americans United is a leader in the fight against federally funded private school voucher programs and serves as a co-chair of the National Coalition for Public Education (NCPE). NCPE is a coalition of more than 50 national organizations that support public schools and oppose private school vouchers. The coalition believes that public funds should go to public schools.

We have successfully fought nearly every attempt by Congress to create voucher programs. For example, in 2015, when Congress reauthorized the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which is the law that governs the federally funded programs for K-12 education, we fought off several provisions that would have created federal voucher and voucher-like programs.

Nonetheless, over a decade ago, Congress forced the creation of a voucher program for the District of Columbia, which is the only federally funded voucher program in the country. Congress has continued to reauthorize it despite its clear failures—including four U.S. Department of Education studies showing that it does not improve academic achievement. We will continue to fight this program and point out its shortfalls.

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Litigation

 

Duncan v. Nevada

Nevada’s voucher program is the most extensive in the country, authorizing any child who has attended a Nevada public school for 100 days to receive a voucher that is worth approximately $5,000 and that is drawn from the state’s public-school account. Once their child has a voucher, parents can then use voucher funding to purchase religious education at religious private schools. Americans United, along with allied organizations, filed suit on behalf of several Nevada taxpayers who objected to this use of their tax money. We challenged the voucher law under the Nevada Constitution, which forbids using public money for a sectarian purpose.

 

Larue v. Douglas County School District

The Douglas County voucher program authorized 500 students to use state, per-pupil education funds, which had been earmarked for the public-school system, as vouchers to attend private religious schools. In 2011, Americans United filed a lawsuit on behalf of Colorado taxpayers to challenge the voucher program. In June 2015, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled in our favor, holding that the program violates a provision of the Colorado Constitution that forbids using taxpayer funds to finance religious schools.

 

McCall v. Scott

Although the Florida Supreme Court struck down the state’s school-voucher program in 2006, the Florida legislature has also enacted a tax-credit program that accomplishes essentially the same ends: use public dollars to finance education at religious private schools. In 2014, Americans United filed suit against the tax-credit program, arguing that it violates provisions of the Florida constitution pertaining to public education and the funding of religion.

 

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All the most recent posts from AU's Wall of Separation Blog & The Protect Thy Neighbor Blog

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Americans United this week urged the New Jersey Supreme Court to stop Morris County officials from awarding taxpayer-funded grants to houses of worship.

Since 2012, Morris County has distributed more than $4.5 million in tax revenue to a dozen active churches through an historical preservation program. These grants are in direct conflict with the Religious Aid Clause in New Jersey’s state constitution, which proclaims that no resident can be compelled to pay taxes for “building or repairing any church or churches, place or places of worship.”

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Pages

Most Recent Blog Posts
All the most recent posts from AU's Wall of Separation Blog & The Protect Thy Neighbor Blog

Shocking Headlines Elicit Yawns From The Religious Right

A few months ago, when news broke that President Donald J. Trump had given classified information to the Russians, I asked why Religious Right groups were remaining silent. They surely would have spoken up if a Democratic president had done that.

Today I have to ask that question again, in light of two recent incidents – Anthony Scaramucci’s profanity-laced rant to The New Yorker and Trump’s completely inappropriate speech to the Boy Scouts.

American Muslims Are Worried About Trump, But They Still Believe In The American Dream

The Pew Research Center just released the results of a new survey on the American Muslim experience, and the findings are pretty much what you’d expect, unfortunately: A majority of American Muslims feel they face a lot of discrimination in the United States, they say life hasn’t become any easier for American Muslims in recent years and they’re understandably worried about President Donald Trump.

AU Urges New Jersey Supreme Court To Prevent Morris County Tax Dollars From Funding Houses Of Worship

Americans United this week urged the New Jersey Supreme Court to stop Morris County officials from awarding taxpayer-funded grants to houses of worship.

Since 2012, Morris County has distributed more than $4.5 million in tax revenue to a dozen active churches through an historical preservation program. These grants are in direct conflict with the Religious Aid Clause in New Jersey’s state constitution, which proclaims that no resident can be compelled to pay taxes for “building or repairing any church or churches, place or places of worship.”

The Texas Legislature Is Meeting For A Special Session And Has A Second Chance To Pass Bad Legislation

The Texas legislature’s regular session ended just weeks ago, but lawmakers are already back in Austin for a special session. Governor Greg Abbott (R) was forced to call the special session after the state legislature failed to adopt must-pass legislation during the regular session: in a dramatic stand-off, the Senate had refused to pass key bills as retaliation for the House refusing to pass legislation that would discriminate against transgender people.

Pages

Most Recent Blog Posts
All the most recent posts from AU's Wall of Separation Blog & The Protect Thy Neighbor Blog

Shocking Headlines Elicit Yawns From The Religious Right

A few months ago, when news broke that President Donald J. Trump had given classified information to the Russians, I asked why Religious Right groups were remaining silent. They surely would have spoken up if a Democratic president had done that.

Today I have to ask that question again, in light of two recent incidents – Anthony Scaramucci’s profanity-laced rant to The New Yorker and Trump’s completely inappropriate speech to the Boy Scouts.

American Muslims Are Worried About Trump, But They Still Believe In The American Dream

The Pew Research Center just released the results of a new survey on the American Muslim experience, and the findings are pretty much what you’d expect, unfortunately: A majority of American Muslims feel they face a lot of discrimination in the United States, they say life hasn’t become any easier for American Muslims in recent years and they’re understandably worried about President Donald Trump.

AU Urges New Jersey Supreme Court To Prevent Morris County Tax Dollars From Funding Houses Of Worship

Americans United this week urged the New Jersey Supreme Court to stop Morris County officials from awarding taxpayer-funded grants to houses of worship.

Since 2012, Morris County has distributed more than $4.5 million in tax revenue to a dozen active churches through an historical preservation program. These grants are in direct conflict with the Religious Aid Clause in New Jersey’s state constitution, which proclaims that no resident can be compelled to pay taxes for “building or repairing any church or churches, place or places of worship.”

The Texas Legislature Is Meeting For A Special Session And Has A Second Chance To Pass Bad Legislation

The Texas legislature’s regular session ended just weeks ago, but lawmakers are already back in Austin for a special session. Governor Greg Abbott (R) was forced to call the special session after the state legislature failed to adopt must-pass legislation during the regular session: in a dramatic stand-off, the Senate had refused to pass key bills as retaliation for the House refusing to pass legislation that would discriminate against transgender people.

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Press Releases
Church & State
July/August 2017 Church & State

Trump's Voucher Onslaught

Trump And DeVos Push Private School Tax Aid Scheme, But The Details Of Their Plan Remain Vague

May 2017 Church & State

Save Our Schools!

Americans Oppose Trump-DeVos Plans To ‘Voucherize’ Education

March 2017 Church & State

States Of Emergency

Legislation That Threatens Church-State Separation Is Pending In Half The Country

March 2017 Church & State

Bad Choice

Mich. Billionaire Voucher Advocate Betsy DeVos Takes Charge At The U.S. Department Of Education