The state of Illinois, which allowed its voucher program to sunset last year, stands out like a beacon amid the many states adopting school voucher schemes that primarily support religiously segregated schools.
At the end of last year, Illinois wisely allowed its voucher program to end, making it the first state ever to roll back a voucher program. Unfortunately, six states passed new voucher programs that same year: Arkansas, Iowa, Montana, Nebraska, South Carolina and Utah. And 11 states expanded their existing voucher schemes: Alabama, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Wisconsin.
Oklahoma also infamously approved the first-ever religious charter school, a virtual Catholic school, which a coalition including the Freedom From Religion Foundation is contesting in court, along with a separate challenge by the state’s attorney general. That Catholic charter school plans to discriminate in its policies and practices based on religion, sexual orientation, gender identity and other protected characteristics, including even denying admission if students or their family members are LGBTQ-plus, a different faith or otherwise do not conform to Catholic beliefs.
“Other than Illinois, the constitutionally and fiscally reckless trend nationwide seems to be creating new voucher-type schemes and expanding existing programs toward universal vouchers,” reports FFRF Senior Policy Counsel Ryan Jayne. Universal vouchers allow even the wealthiest families that already send their children to private schools to get their religious tuition paid for by taxpayers. “This abandons any pretense of so-called ‘school choice’ being primarily aimed at helping low-income students,” Jayne adds.
Overall, 30 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico offer vouchers or neovoucher programs. FFRF Action Fund is working to head off more such programs and encouraging states to follow the example of Illinois — by investing in sectarian-free public education open to all.
FFRF Action Fund is a 501(c)(4) organization that develops and advocates for legislation, regulations and government programs to preserve the constitutional principle of separation between state and church. It also advocates for the rights and views of nonbelievers, endorses candidates for political office, and publicizes the views of elected officials concerning religious liberty issues.