The Freedom From Religion Foundation has joined more than 60 other organizations in signing a letter against reauthorization of the District of Columbia's school voucher program.
The National Coalition for Public Education, an anti-voucher alliance group, released a letter on March 7 to oppose the continuance of D.C.'s voucher program. FFRF and several other allies, including Americans United, the American Humanist Association and the Secular Coalition for America, have added their names to the document.
FFRF vigorously opposes any public funding of private schools, which are disproportionately religiously affiliated. It is deeply irresponsible and unconstitutional for Congress to reauthorize or expand the D.C. voucher program, which has proven unsuccessful, poorly managed and unaccountable to taxpayers. Research on voucher programs has found that they tend to worsen academic achievement of participatory students. The D.C. voucher program in particular has demonstrated serious oversight problems in its repeated failure to meet the accountability standards.
Secular public schools are the backbone of our American democracy—and its commitment to a government free from religious indoctrination. Public schools unite a diverse range of ethnic and religious communities, fostering tolerance and intellectual expansion. Public schools, unlike private schools, are entirely inclusive and equally serving to all students of all cultural and religious, or nonreligious, backgrounds.
"Vouchers undermine this vital function, however, by diverting desperately needed resources away from the public school system to fund the education of a few voucher students—without offering any actual reforms," the NCPE letter reads. The D.C. voucher program allows religious schools to discriminate against students on the bases of gender.
It is especially concerning to FFRF that even though private schools participating in voucher programs receive public funding, they do not abide by federal civil rights laws, and do not adhere to religious freedom protections guaranteed to public school students under the First Amendment. They do not face the same public accountability standards that all public schools must meet. Taxpayer money must not be used to fund schools that do not promise to protect the civil rights of students, or to indoctrinate.
"The public's ability to make reasoned decisions and accept fact is directly correlated with the quality of secular public education," says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. "For this reason, standing up for quality education is fundamental to FFRF's purpose in preserving the wall between church and state."
The markup of the D.C. voucher by the full House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform is tomorrow morning, March 9, at 10 a.m.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national organization with more than 27,000 members across the country, including Washington D.C. Its purpose is to protect the constitutional principle of separation between church and state.
View FFRF's new brochure, "The Case Against Vouchers," here.