FFRF opposes DeVos COVID voucher scheme

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is condemning Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’ plan to use $300 million in COVID stimulus money for “microgrants.” 

FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor does not mince words: “These are vouchers. A voucher by any other name is as ineffective, unaccountable and destructive to our public schools.”

FFRF signed on to a joint letter with over 40 allies on April 20 opposing this new private school voucher program, which gives “microgrants” to students from kindergarten through high school. Private school vouchers nearly always send taxpayer funds to religious schools that are not accountable to taxpayers, do not improve student performance, and regularly discriminate on the basis of religion, disability and LGBTQ status. “DeVos’ neovoucher proposal is another assault on the Constitution and the American principle of the separation of state and church,” says Gaylor. “Religious education should not be subsidized with public money.”

FFRF warns that voucher programs are rife with fraud and abuse. Because there would be no governmental oversight of the schools or how the money is allocated, private schools have no accountability to the taxpayers who are subsidizing them. There is no mechanism for preventing fraudulent spending by school operators, for instance. FFRF observes that where public money goes, public accountability ought to follow.

The joint letter explains, “This unprecedented pandemic should not be exploited to promote unaccountable, inequitable and ineffective private school vouchers. We urge you to reject any effort to force private school vouchers into the next COVID-19 relief package.”

FFRF notes the past similar debacles of the education secretary.

“DeVos has failed to get any meaningful voucher program off the ground during her tenure at the Department of Education, which seems appropriate because vouchers are proven failures,” says FFRF Co-President Dan Barker. “Hopefully, this un-American proposal will also fail.”

Photo: Gage Skidmore on Flickr

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, based in Madison, Wis., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational charity, is the nation's largest association of freethinkers (atheists, agnostics), and has been working since 1978 to keep religion and government separate.

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