The Senate gave in to the Bush administration and right-wing lobbyists today when it approved a wide-ranging spending bill that included the nation's first federally funded school voucher program, said Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
The omnibus spending bill included funds for a slew of federal agencies as well as a $14-million-a-year school voucher plan for the District of Columbia. The proposal allows the Secretary of Education to introduce a 5-year pilot program to provide vouchers of up to $7,500 for at least 1,600 students to attend religious or other private schools. The House approved the expansive spending package in December.
President George W. Bush, who initiated the voucher scheme, is considered certain to sign the omnibus bill.
Americans United, along with other public interest groups, had urged Congress to dump the voucher proposal from the spending bills.
"Religious Right activists are a step closer to reaching one of their primary goals which is to see a public school system gradually replaced by taxpayer-supported religious schools," said Americans United Executive Director Barry W. Lynn.
Lynn said if Congress were serious about supporting public school students in the District it would not have approved a bill shifting large sums of public funds to private schools.
"The passage of the voucher proposal has more to do with election-year politics," Lynn said. "This voucher scheme will short-change the District's public schools and provoke serious constitutional problems."
Americans United for Separation of Church and State 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.