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An interim committee of the Arkansas legislature will study the subject of school vouchers before the next regular legislative session convenes in January 2015. We recommend the lawmakers take a look at Georgia, among others.
Over the last four years, $170 million of Georgia taxpayers' money has been used to subsidize private schools, most of them church-related. That means taxpayers have been made to support religious beliefs they don't share, and may strongly oppose. In the name of "choice," they are denied choice.
And that is not the voucher schools' only sin. A recent study by the Southern Education Foundation found that 115 Georgia religious schools receiving state money have "draconian anti-gay policies and practices" in place. In these schools, students who are gay (or even perceived to be gay) can be immediately expelled, with no questions asked and no appeals process.
The author of the Foundation report says that tax money is being used to subsidize institutions that "punish, denounce and even demonize students in the name of religion solely because they are gay, state that they are homosexual, happen to have same-sex parents or guardians, or express support or tolerance for gay students at school, away from school or at home."
Presented with a bill to legalize vouchers in Arkansas, the legislature voted for the interim study instead. Even a little study, and a little sincerity, will lead to the unavoidable conclusion that church schools should be supported by church members. Baptists and Catholics and Muslims are welcome to evangelize in their own schools all they want, as long as they don't ask the rest of us to pay for their evangelism. That's unjust, and un-American.
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