Dangerous Wisconsin voucher scheme proceeds

The Freedom From Religion Foundation has been watching the Wisconsin Legislature inch closer toward the most sweeping expansion of private school vouchers in the state’s history. Gov. Scott Walker proposed the voucher expansion and lawmakers modified it in the 2013-15 budget.

Starting July 31, parents whose family income is 185 percent of the federal poverty level can sign up their children to receive vouchers for private schools straight out of the taxpayer’s pocket.

Over 90 religious schools have applied to participate in the new scheme. Of these schools, only one is nominally secular (a Montessori school which has Catholic roots). According to the Department of Public Instruction, there are a total of 824 private schools in Wisconsin.

Of the schools seeking up to $6,442 per year per pupil, 66 schools are Catholic, 10 are Lutheran, eight are miscellaneous Christian schools, three are Jewish and two are Muslim.

In Madison, home of FFRF, only two schools applied: Lighthouse Christian began in 2004 with only 50 students. Lighthouse Christian is seeking 40 slots for voucher students. According to the Wisconsin State Journal, Lighthouse Christian Administrator Tia Sierra told state officials she expects many current students will sign up for the voucher.

In other words, while touted as a program to benefit indigent and disadvantaged children, the new voucher program is set up in a way to subsidize private religious education for many students whose parents have managed to pay tuition in the past.

“I’m trying to call everybody that I know that might be interested,” said Sierra. “We have to be one of the top 25 schools with applications to even make it. We’re really going to try.”

Westside Christian, a tiny school opened by St. Andrew Lutheran Church in 2001, also applied for funding. If it receives support, the school will expand by more than a third.

Chillingly and revealingly, Principal Hank Hobnecke told the State Journal: “We’re not motivated by the bottom dollar at all. We’re motivated by providing a quality education and sharing Christ with the community too.”

Taxpayers must not be forced to subsidize religious education, and schools whose overt purpose is “sharing Christ.” America’s secular public education will be destroyed if citizens do not revolt now.

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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