The School Voucher Drum Beats On
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Thu Feb 15, 2007 at 01:04:21 PM EST
School voucher programs usher in a mind-boggling practical achievement. They take the answer that is public education and scramble it into 3 new problems: forcing the state to improperly promote religion by funding religious schools with taxpayer money, draining the public school system of much-needed resources, and bridling the religious freedom of church institutions with the inevitable strings of government funding. They're bad for the state, bad for children's education, and bad for the church. And yet...
[Cross-posted from the Baptist Joint Committee blog]

Earlier this week at Blog from the Capital, I posted news that the Utah legislature passed a bill creating a state-wide school voucher program. Now, Governor Jon Huntsman has signed it into law. It will make available to every student not already attending private school between $500 and $3000 (depending on family income) of public money to attend the private school of their choice, including religious schools, this despite the director of the State Office of Education stating "We have always believed it's unconstitutional."

Advocates for school vouchers (an agenda that - like the never-dying villain in so many Hollywood slasher films - persists despite having been defeated in numerous ballot initiatives and state legislatures) see this as a first step toward implementing state-wide funding of religious schools across the nation (see Andrew Coulson's new piece in the American Spectator). Proponents will put incredible pressure on legislators to achieve their goal. In her important essay on vouchers last year, Barbara Miner said it this way:

Vouchers do not survive on their merits, that much is clear. They survive for one simple reason: Too many corporate and conservative voucher supporters have invested too much money, self-interest, and ideological pride in the issue.

Most important, the stakes are too high. As educational writer Ann Bastian wrote more than 10 years ago in Rethinking Schools, "Privatizing public education is the centerpiece, the grand prize, of the right wing's overall agenda to dismantle social entitlements and government responsibility for social needs."

As reported in People for the American Way's Right Wing Watch, the push for Utah's program was funded in part by Michigan voucher proponent Dick Devos, and the campaign ultimately succeeded after a late change of heart by House member Brad Last, who had actually voted against the bill in Committee (the voucher bill passed by just one vote in the House), but "indicated he was weary of all the pressure-packed lobbying that had been employed on behalf of the bill."

The principles of church-state separation still offer important avenues of challenge to voucher programs. The Supreme Court's unfortunate 2002 decision in Zelman may allow a program like Utah's under the US Constitution. But this new development may offer a valuable proving ground for the important counter-argument that state constitutions invalidate programs like this one on church-state grounds. As the Salt Lake Tribune says: "Utah's constitution contains blunt language prohibiting the government from directing public funds to religious organizations." Many states have similar provisions that go further than the US Constitution in explicitly prohibiting funding.

When Florida's voucher program was undone last year by its Supreme Court, the reasoning was based on the state's requirement that public school systems be "uniform," and did not come to the argument that such funding was unconstitutional on church-state grounds. But Utah has no such "uniformity" clause. The church-state argument will be just one of the consitutional challenges that are sure to come, but an important one in the fight to keep religious institutions free of taxpayer money, and keep the state from promoting the church.

Meanwhile, President Bush continues to offer a national school voucher program in each budget he sends to Congress, including his most recent.

are part of the long term war of attrition aimed at the public schools by the religous right, and their allies among predetory business interests that seek to privatize public education as a business venture.

This is an important battle ground for the future of the country, as the religious right, seeking to indoctrinate children in the falsely revivionist history of Christian nationalism want to coopt the resources of taxpayer funded institutions as assets in their drive for power.

by Frederick Clarkson on Mon Feb 19, 2007 at 02:29:59 PM EST

Aside from the obvious erosion of the separation of church and state, vouchers will add immensely to the separation of rich and poor -- the ongoing war against the middle class. I'm yet to see a voucher amount proposed that would actually cover the cost of any private school. So the only people who would use their vouchers are those that can pay the difference. This would leave public schools starved for resources and populated by the poor. Also, public schools are required to educate special needs students: those with learning disabilities and physical handicaps that require more attention than normally-abled students, and those for whom English is a second language, while private schools have no such requirements and can pick and choose the students they wish to teach.

Vouchers are so wrong.

by arjay8 on Tue Feb 20, 2007 at 02:35:58 PM EST

Yeah, it's good to know that this drum is still being used. I remember reading that this drum was used by 123helpme com people, and that shocked me. I never thought that those people would use this drum in their lives.

by LayneMarvin on Thu Sep 12, 2019 at 01:11:30 PM EST

The school voucher program is an amazing opportunity for students. Students will be thrilled to know this information regarding the voucher. seo experts in kochi It will be more fun for them and they will love it. So all the students are just eagerly waiting for the show.

by mosesantony2013 on Thu Jan 02, 2020 at 06:18:48 AM EST

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