WASHINGTON, DC - June 18 - On Tuesday, June 17th, the House Financial Services Appropriations Subcommittee decided to continue funding D.C. Opportunity Scholarships. This program allows parents in the District of Columbia to send their children to religious schools with tuition vouchers funded by American taxpayers.
Since September, 2005 the Secular Coalition for America and allies at the National Coalition for Public Education (NCPE) have lobbied dozens of Representatives and Senators to oppose the continuation of this program and others like it. [See: NCPE letter (.pdf) to Subcommittee members.]
Most recently, the Coalition made vouchers a focus of our annual Lobby Day on June 9th, when we accompanied citizen lobbyists to Capitol Hill to discuss federal funding of religious schools with elected officials.
"We are dismayed that the subcommittee has decided to continue to fund D.C. vouchers, ironically called 'Opportunity Scholarships.' Taxpayers have already been forced to subsidize the religious education of D.C. students for the past five years," said Secular Coalition for America director Lori Lipman Brown.
"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 Brown.
When the program was authorized in 2003, it passed by only two votes along predominantly partisan lines.
The Secular Coalition for America is determined to fight the Subcommittee's decision to re-appropriate money for the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program. The Secular Coalition opposes the use of government funds for religious purposes, including vouchers for religious schools. We agree with the founders of the United States that no individual taxpayer should be required to pay for someone else's religion.
For more information about the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program see our position statement.