School Voucher Program: As reported by the ACLU Online

The Court rejected an Establishment Clause challenge to Cleveland’s school voucher program. This marks the first time in history that the Court has approved the transfer of millions of dollars in taxpayer money to parochial schools where it will be used for religious education.

That’s not the way we heard it.

If we understand this correctly, the school voucher concept is still for qualifying parents to spend on the school of their choice for their children. Far from being a taxpayer subsidy of parochial schooling, it is an end-run tax rebate or “credit” for those who would prefer to enroll their children in private institutions. Educators, arguing that this could kill the public school system, are much closer to the mark. We just don’t agree that taxpayers have any moral obligation to prop up a failed public educational system no matter what.

If the “voucher” payee is the private school, other than by virtue of the choice of child enrolment made by a parent, then I’m all wet, but I don’t think so. To reason that this violates separation of church and state, because most private schools probably do also offer religious instruction, is uncomfortably close to arguing that tax refunds may only be spent on “worthwhile” purchases approved by the public.

“Use this voucher to send your child to any school you wish, but only if it’s on the Approved List.” That’s scarier than what we have now. is death on violations of the “separation of church and state” doctrine, however trite. We do find it hard to work up enthusiasm for the “Under God” pledge flap (see the article below), but we think the inclusion of even those two extra words, under the name of anybody’s version of El Supremo, is just plain wrong. Do we think School Vouchers represents a breach, however small, of the same principle? Obviously not.

In the ’70’s and ’80’s many of my best friends scrimped and saved to send their kids to parochial school. I can’t recollect any of them stepping inside a church, except for weddings and funerals. The fact is, those kids got a better education. Despite my many issues with people in organized religions who exceed their brief (and welcome), if I’d had kids, I would have done the same thing.

I call vouchers a “refund” because taxpayers are already forced to subsidize public schooling whether they benefit or not. I am a two-time beneficiary of both public school and university systems, but the education kids of the ’50’s received was NOT what our kids are getting today . Parents who send their kids to private schools are paying twice to do it. In all fairness, I just can’t see penalizing them because some of the better private schools in any town are in fact parochial.

We are fully aware of the potential for abuse the voucher system offers some opportunistic religious and political fringe groups. If the kids come out of the Traditional Values Coalition turnkey schools spouting creationism and hate propaganda, and they can’t add two and two, this is an abuse of voucher money, but it is a separate issue (fraud). If they come out of the same schools spouting Voltaire and differential equations, but they happen to believe the universe is 4,000 years old and is sinful, well, there’s not a damn thing we can or should try to do about it.

Live and let live. Happy Fourth.

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