Oppose Harmful Vouchers Legislation in Congress
During School Choice Week in January, Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Tim Scott (R-SC) introduced two bills that would transform the public education system as we know it. By privatizing a majority of funds for public schools, The Scholarships for Kids Act (S. 1968/H.R. 4000) and The Creating Hope and Opportunity for Individuals and Communities through Education Act (S. 1909) (or the “CHOICE Act”) would together turn a significant amount of federal education funds into vouchers.
S. 1968/H.R. 4000 would privatize 63% of federal education funding by obliterating Title I funding, which supports struggling and low-income school districts. Federal support for education would be sent to private schools instead of public school districts that serve all children. The “CHOICE” Act would redirect Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) funds to private school vouchers, create vouchers for students from military families and expand the D.C. voucher program. Together, these two bills would turn a significant amount of federal education funds into vouchers.
As Reform Jews, we care deeply about maintaining a strong, competitive public school system. Further, as a religious minority, we are especially sensitive to voucher issues because they threaten the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious liberty. A central principle of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause is that members of particular faiths, and not the government, should fund religious institutions. Government funding for religious education undermines the First Amendment and harms religious liberty. When vouchers are used towards expenses related to religious school education, they become an indirect government funding of sectarian institutions.
Since the government has a right, in fact an obligation, to demand that the institutions which it funds meet certain requirements or standards, strings are attached to government money. Religious schools stand to lose their autonomy in areas of single-sex education, hiring procedures and curriculum decisions. Such control would not be beneficial for either religious organizations or the government.
Take action on this crucial issue! Urge your Senators and Representatives to oppose dangerous voucher legislation!