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State Issue: Vouchers - Public Funding of Religious Education

Voucher programs run counter to founding principles of the United States. A cornerstone of America is our “common school” — free, publicly supported schools open to all children regardless of social class, religion, ethnicity, gender or country of origin. America forged the very concept of universal education. Another foundation of our republic is the guarantee of government accountability to citizens about where their taxes go. Every taxpayer has a right to assurances that their taxes will not be used to promote a religion to which they do not agree. In fact, avoiding state-directed religious funding was one of the primary concerns behind the adoption of the religion clauses of the First Amendment.

The vast majority of private schools are religiously affiliated. Vouchers and tuition tax credits (or other “neo-voucher” programs) almost entirely benefit religious schools with overtly religious missions, which integrate religion into every subject. Further, the vast majority of voucher beneficiaries are students who would have attended private religious schools anyway. The effect of such programs is thus to divert public funding from public schools to private religious schools without any reasonable justification.

In 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court held that if a state chooses to fund secular private schools with taxpayer funds, it is essentially forced to fund private religious education as well. After this decision, the only way for states to protect taxpayers’ right to not fund religious indoctrination is to reject voucher programs entirely. Public funds should be used for public education, and private schools must rely on private funding. Although the Supreme Court has forced states’ hands, preventing them from selectively funding secular private education, returning to a well-funded “common school” model promotes equitable education for all American children, rather than favoring wealthy and religious families.

For all the above reasons, the FFRF Action Fund views voucher programs as a core state/church issue and strongly advocates for the end of all voucher and neo-voucher programs.