Do you believe Oregon taxpayers should be forced to fund religious schools? Should they pay for the religious education of those who don’t share their values?
While I recognize the value of religious education and agree that parochial (religion-based) schools can serve a valuable role for many children, I don’t want my tax dollars paying for either.
Whatever taxpayer money we have in Oregon should instead be invested in our underfunded public schools.
At this moment, three Republican lawmakers have written a bill that greatly concerns me. The Oregon legislature is considering this bill. The wording may, at first, sound reasonable; the summary of HB 2994 says it “creates tax credit for educational expenses paid for special needs student attending private school or public school charging tuition.” However, since this is a tax credit and not just a tax deduction, the government is, in effect reimbursing the taxpayer for the tuition. This leaves less money for public schools and other public programs.
I’m an Oregonian and a member of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and I think tuition tax credits are a very bad idea. They are ineffective, they permit discrimination, lack accountability to taxpayers, and use taxpayer money to fund religious schools.
Because most religious and parochial schools either cannot or do not wish to separate the religious components of the education they offer from the academic programs, they should not be given tuition tax credits.
It’s only fair that parents can choose a religious education for their children, but no taxpayer should be required to pay for another’s religious education. Instead of being funded by the taxpayer, these schools must be funded by voluntary contributions by their supporters.
It wouldn’t help the special needs students, either. Department of Education studies of the D.C. voucher program show that participating students are actually less likely to have access to help for English language learners, learning support programs and special needs programs, tutors, counselors, cafeterias, and nurse’s offices – than students not participating in the program. This is especially problematic, when the stated goal of HB 2994 is to benefit special needs children.
Additionally, students who leave public schools forfeit many of the protections provided to students under the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA). In addition, students accepting vouchers would not receive all of the services that are listed on their individualized education plans (IEPs) that they are currently receiving in their public school. Moreover, vouchers for students with special needs run contrary to IDEA’s fundamental purpose as a civil rights law, which is to bring students with disabilities into the public school system, I urge you to contact your state representative immediately to oppose this wrongheaded and misguided bill.
Bruce Adams is the president of the Columbia Chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. He is a retired teacher who was formerly president of the Oregon Education Association, as well as president of the Oregon Association for Talented and Gifted. He’s at firstname.lastname@example.org.