Senate Votes Down More Federal Funds for School Vouchers

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Mandy Simon, (202) 675-2312; media@dcaclu.org 

Senate Votes Down More Federal Funds for School Vouchers

WASHINGTON - An
amendment that would continue an expiring program to provide federal
funds for private and religious school vouchers in the District of
Columbia was defeated today in the Senate. The amendment would have
extended the federally-funded District of Columbia school voucher
program, the nation’s first and only federally-funded private and
religious school program of its kind. Federal funding for private and
religious school vouchers are currently set to expire at the end of the
next school year. The amendment, number 615, was proposed to H.R. 1105,
the Omnibus Appropriations Act of 2009 by Senator John Ensign (R-NV),
but was defeated by a vote of 58-39.

 
The
American Civil Liberties Union has strong objections to the voucher
program based on First Amendment principles that bar funding for
religious education.
 
“The
Senate’s rejection of continuing to provide federal funds for private
religious education is welcome,” said Christopher Anders, ACLU Senior
Legislative Counsel. “The government cannot and should not be directly
– or indirectly – funding the religious education of our children. Private
religious schools have a clear and undisputed right to include
religious content in their school curriculum when those schools are
privately funded, but not when they are taxpayer funded.  Vouchers are
a problematic because once government dollars enter the equation it
becomes impossible for the government to avoid funding religious
activity or favoring one religious or non-religious program over
another.” 
 
The
voucher program allows schools to take federal funds while infusing
their curriculum with specific religious content without being subject
to many civil rights statutes that protect students from
discrimination. Students that participate [in what?] are exempt from
compliance of laws like the Individuals with Disabilities in Education
Act (IDEA) and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. Since the
principal recipients of these federal voucher funds are private
religious schools, every American’s tax dollars are going toward
schools that bring specific religious content into their curriculum.
Moreover, congressionally-mandated evaluations by the federal
government itself have shown that students receiving vouchers have
shown no improvement in academic achievement when compared to similar
students in public schools.
 
“Federal
funds should mean adherence to federal law and that is simply not the
case with voucher programs,” continued Anders. “Students of these
programs are not guaranteed the same protections of civil rights
statutes as their public school counterparts. How can we say we’re
helping our nations’ students when we’re not properly safeguarding
them? There must be a better way for our taxpayer dollars to serve all
students in Washington, D.C.”
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The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) conserves America's original civic values working in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in the United States by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

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