The Secular Coalition for America is opposed to the D.C. Voucher program (euphemistically known as the “Opportunity Scholarship Program”).
In essence, the program uses taxpayer money to foot the complete tuition for students choosing to go to religious schools.
A couple weeks ago, the House Financial Services Appropriations Subcommittee voted to continue these scholarships.
“The General Accountability Office concluded that these vouchers do not give D.C. students sufficient secular choice in education. The programs do not even ensure that recipients will be allowed into some of these religious schools, much less be permitted to use their federal voucher without required religious proselytizing. Those of us who do not wish to subsidize someone else’s church will continue to be forced to do so through our federal taxes. This must stop,” said [SCA director Lori Lipman] Brown.
Today, Brown had a letter to the editor published in the Washington Post:
Requiring families to raise their own funds to send their children to private religious schools is not punishing students, contrary to what The Post suggested in the June 24 editorial “A Choice for D.C. Children.”
Continuing the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP) using federal tax dollars is, however, punishing Americans who agree with the Founders of our nation that we should not be forced to support any individual’s church.
For parents who are looking for real school choice, there are public magnet and charter schools. The OSP does not offer school “choice” at all. When the Government Accountability Office published a study on the program last year, it concluded that Opportunity Scholarships fail to deliver the promise of school choice, because the bulk of participating schools are religious. Worse yet, the GAO also noted that the program lacks an opt-out clause for students wishing to avoid religious exercises.
The Post claimed that stopping this federal funding will amount to “depriving 1,900 poor children of an opportunity to choose their schools.” But every student is welcome to stay in the school of his or her choice. Why would a school that is supposedly doing a good job be unable to raise private scholarship money for tuition? Students’ religious training needs to be privately supported; given the cost of this program to taxpayers and to our secular tradition, extending a five-year mistake into a six-year one is just not justifiable.
LORI LIPMAN BROWN
Secular Coalition for America
This program is one of the major issues I was lobbying against when I participated in Lobby Day a few week ago.
You can learn more about the D.C. voucher program and why it’s a bad one here.