Americans United Applauds Utah Vote Rejecting Private School Voucher Scheme

Vote In Solidly 'Red' State Underscores Unpopularity Of Religious School Aid, Says Watchdog Group

Americans United for Separation of Church and State has hailed a vote by Utah residents, who yesterday rejected a private school voucher plan at the ballot box.

Utahns voted 60-40 percent to nullify a sweeping voucher plan passed by the legislature earlier this year. The vote, said Americans United Executive Director Barry W. Lynn, is another reminder of how unpopular voucher plans are.

“States don’t come any redder than Utah,” Lynn noted, “yet voters were quick to shoot down this misguided plan. Lawmakers in other states need to sit up and take notice.”

Continued Lynn, “This vote proves that vouchers aren’t popular with liberals, moderates or conservatives. The American people want to support public schools, not private religious education that teaches dogma, subjects staff to religious qualifications and discriminates in admissions.”

The so-called “Parents for Choice in Education Act” would have provided $500 to $3,000 in voucher aid for every student wanting to attend private school. It appeared on the ballot Nov. 6 as Referendum 1.

The bill was pushed through the legislature by pro-voucher forces mostly outside the state, led by the American Legislative Exchange Council. When opponents gathered enough signatures to put the measure on the ballot, a group called Parents for Choice in Education defended it.

Critics noted, however, that the group has precious few parents in it and was funded largely by money provided by Patrick M. Byrne, an internet millionaire who runs the sales Web site Overstock.com.

“Utahns realized this effort to force vouchers on the state was a plot by ideologues who oppose public education and wisely said they wanted no part of it,” Lynn said. “Residents of the state have no desire to subject their children to a reckless experiment in education.”

Lynn said the results from Utah should give voucher boosters pause.

“Vouchers will not solve the problems we have in some areas of education,” said Lynn. “The people know that, and it’s time to move on and focus on helping public schools in need.”

Americans United joined a coalition of groups to oppose the voucher measure. In addition, AU’s Utah Chapter worked to educate state residents about vouchers and their ill effects on public education and religious liberty.

Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.

Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.