Saturday, December 24, 2005

Defense Bill Includes Rita-Katrina School Voucher Program

The Defense Appropriations Bill passed by Congress on Thursday included a school voucher program for students displaced by Hurricanes Rita and Katrina. According to the Alliance for School Choice, the bill provides tuition reimbursement up to $6,000 per student ($7,500 for special education students) for public or private schools that provided educational refuge. The funds will run through state and local governments. On Thursday, the Anti-Defamation League issued this statement:
We are very sympathetic to the plight of the students who attend the devastated schools in the Gulf Coast region, but this funding scheme does not provide appropriate firewalls against taxpayer funding of religious instruction and proselytizing – and sets a disturbing precedent for the future.

The provisions approved by Congress do not include necessary prohibitions against using these funds for religious education – or even worship services. Under the bill, parents would be forced to affirmatively act to 'opt-out' their children from these religious worship activities or classes. In addition, this bill would permit federally funded religious discrimination in hiring teachers for these private and religious schools.