FFRF: Florida voucher expansion for anti-maskers is dangerous and unconstitutional

The Freedom From Religion Foundation condemns a Florida development that not only endangers student health, but encourages anti-maskers to send their children to religious schools at public expense.

As Florida tops the country in a recent swell of Covid-19 cases, the Florida State Board of Education has foolishly expanded its failed private school voucher program to include students whose parents are against stopping the spread of the virus.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has forbidden Florida public school districts from requiring masks this fall despite a recent spike in infection rates across the country and particularly in Florida. At least two school districts announced praiseworthy plans to defy this reckless order, citing common sense and the fact that some school staff members had recently died from the virus. In response, the State Board of Education announced that parents in those districts could access vouchers to use public funds to pay for their child(ren) to attend a private (invariably religious) school that does not require masking.

This is a dark twist in Florida officials’ long, incompetent history of public education. Violating the rights of Florida taxpayers and failing Florida students academically has not convinced them to change their path. Now they are engaged in a politically motivated anti-science battle that will further the spread of a deadly disease while doubling down on their crusade against secular public schools.

FFRF has fought against private school voucher schemes around the country since their inception. Data continues to show that vouchers hurt public schools, provide no educational benefit, and force taxpayers to fund religious education. On top of that, the programs primarily pay for private school tuition for students who would have attended private schools anyway, while pretending the purpose is to help low-income students. The origin of voucher programs in fact was based on an explicitly racist goal of keeping schools segregated in defiance of Brown v. Board.

Despite their tarnished history and disastrous track record, voucher programs have been expanded at every opportunity in states like Florida. Typically, this means simply diverting more funds from public schools and redirecting them to private religious schools (which are almost 100 percent Christian, in Florida and elsewhere). In Florida’s situation, it’s even worse, as DeSantis engages in his reckless anti-science quest to stop public schools from protecting their students and staff from a global pandemic. 

FFRF applauds school districts that take necessary steps to protect their students. It is despicable that Florida officials’ decision to reward religious schools and parents with public money for not masking up will directly lead to avoidable deaths in Florida.

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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