June 18, 2024

Laura Meckler & Michelle Boorstein: Billions in taxpayer dollars now go to religious schools via vouchers

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Writing for the Washington Post, Laura Meckler and Michelle Boorstein look at how voucher expansion has mostly meant taxpayers footing the bill for religious schools.

Billions in taxpayer dollars are being used to pay tuition at religious schools throughout the country, as state voucher programs expand dramatically and the line separating public education and religion fades.

School vouchers can be used at almost any private school, but the vast majority of the money is being directed to religious schools, according to a Washington Post examination of the nation’s largest voucher programs.

Vouchers, government money that covers education costs for families outside the public schools, vary by state but offer up to $16,000 per student per year, and in many cases fully cover the cost of tuition at private schools. In some schools, a large share of the student body is benefiting from a voucher, meaning a significant portion of the school’s funding is coming directly from the government.

In just five states with expansive programs, more than 700,000 students benefited from vouchers this school year. (Those same states had a total of about 935,000 private school students in 2021, the most recent year for which data are available.) An additional 200,000 were subsidized in the rest of the country, according to tracking by EdChoice, a voucher advocacy group. That suggests a substantial share of about 4.7 million students attending private school nationwide are benefiting from vouchers — a number that is expected to grow.

The growth follows a string of recent victories in the Supreme Court and state legislatures by religious conservatives who have campaigned to tear down what once were constitutional prohibitions against spending tax money directly on religious education. It also marks a win for the school choice movement, which has spent decades campaigning to let parents use tax money for any school they see fit.

Read the full article here. 

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