May 9, 2024

Catherine Caruso: Pennsylvania Taxpayers Are Funding Discriminatory Religious Schools

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In The New Republic, journalist Catherine Caruso looks at some of the discriminatory religious schools benefiting from Pennsylvania’s voucher program.

In Pennsylvania, as anywhere else in America, private schools can do pretty much whatever they want. They can refuse to accept disabled or LGBTQ applicants. They can expel students for getting pregnant and even for merely having LGBTQ friends outside of school. At the same time, they can require applicants’ families to attend church, not to mention teach students that God created the universe in six days.

Some schools in the state do exactly that—with the support of nearly a half-billion dollars’ worth of public funds, and with hardly any state oversight. And yet, even some Democrats, including Governor Josh Shapiro, want to direct more taxpayer dollars—which otherwise would go to public schools—to private schools.


While the income limit for scholarships is nearly $150,000 per four-person household, it is unlikely that low-income students make up the bulk of scholarship recipients. According to Susan Spicka, the executive director of Education Voters of PA, there is no auditing or reporting being done that would indicate this family income limit is being checked by private schools, let alone enforced. “There really is no safeguard against very, very wealthy families being able to tap into this money,” Spicka told me, adding there is “real resistance” in the state legislature to change this.

The Keystone report also cites Spicka’s research showing that 100 percent of OSTC-recipient schools have policies in place that allow students to be discriminated against on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, religion, pregnancy or abortion, academic performance, or “right fit.”

Since private schools are exempt from nondiscrimination laws, they can expel or refuse to admit any student for any reason, even if the school is receiving public funds through the voucher programs. At some schools, students’ families are required to go to church before enrolling or have a pastor reference, she said, and in others, “you can’t be even friends with kids who are in the LGBTQ+ community and be enrolled in the school.”

At Providence Christian School in Chambersburg, the student application states that the school reserves the right “to refuse admission of an applicant or to discontinue enrollment of a student” for “living in, condoning, or supporting sexual immorality; homosexual acts or sexual orientation; promoting such practices; or otherwise the inability to support the moral principles of the school.”

Some schools violate students’ privacy by requiring them to report their pregnancies to the administration and attend Christian pregnancy counseling. At Clearfield Christian School, students who become pregnant or have a child will be expelled immediately with the option to appeal. “Any student who becomes pregnant or fathers a child must report this information to the administration as soon as possible. A student will not be considered for readmission until a full semester after the birth of the baby,” the policy reads.

There’s much more. Read the full article here. 

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