The Problem with Vouchers
In the wake of School Choice Week, advocates took to their bully pulpits to rally support for state and federal school voucher programs. Supporters of vouchers in Congress have introduced new legislation that would redirect much-needed funding from public schools to private schools.
The Reform Movement has consistently opposed vouchers for many reasons, such as taxpayer funding for private education is essentially giving up on the public education system, and many of the private schools that receive government money are religious schools, thus violating the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment and breaking down the separation between church and state.
Legislation that redirects taxpayer money from our local schools to private education takes necessary support for students and their futures away. This shift in funding gives a very small number of students access to private school, with few notable results in student academic achievement – if at all. Congress ought to focus on strengthening public schools – open to all students, regardless of income, race, religion, sex – than contributing to a growing achievement and opportunity gap.
Public funding for religious schools poses serious concerns regarding the separation of church and state. Not only do vouchers violate our age-old and constitutional commitment to the separation of church and state, but also they require that taxpayers fund a religion they might not agree with, or would otherwise choose not to support. There is no clearer example of “Congress [making] a law respecting an establishment of religion” than funding sectarian education.
Vouchers have been infiltrating our education system for many years. In 2001, the URJ created a resource guide called, “Protecting the Wall, Supporting our Schools.” For more information on Jewish perspectives in favor of public education, and our interests in ensuring the wall of separation between church and state, read the guide here. You can also read up on the Reform Movement’s resolutions on the importance of public education and church-state separation.