Come see me debate on DC vouchers!

For those of you in the DC area, the DC Young Democrats invited me (Jesse) to participate in an Oxford-style debate tomorrow night and you should come!  For those of you not in the DC area, I’ll still be in the debate, but you probably shouldn’t travel just to hear me.

The topic is the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program (Vouchers).  I’ll be one of the three panelists speaking in favor of the resolution, which reads:

BE IT RESOLVED, the District of Columbia should stop accepting new students into the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program (sometimes referred to as the DC voucher program) and should end the program once the children who are already in the program have finished their schooling.  [Flyer (pdf)]

The Secular Coalition objects to the DC voucher program because, as it’s written, the program violates the separation of church and state. We have no position on vouchers for secular schools, but when it comes to taxpayer money being used for religious instruction in religious institutions that discriminate on the basis of faith… we’re against that.  You can read more in our position paper.

Joining me in supporting the resolution are Tanya Clay House (Dir. Public Policy, People For the American Way) and Iris Toyer (Pres., Parents United for the DC Public Schools).

Opposing the resolution will be Harry Thomas, Jr. (DC Councilmember – Ward 5), Virginia Walden Ford (Exec. Dir., DC Parents for School Choice), Gregory Cork, and (Pres. & CEO, Washington Scholarship Fund).

At the end of the debate, the members of DC Young Democrats vote on who won, and that determines the group’s official position on the issue.

Our perspective is often overlooked in the discussion, so come by and support the separation of church and state!

LOCATION
Jack Morton Auditorium @ 805 21st St., NW, Washington, DC
(just 3 blocks from the Foggy Bottom Metro station).

DATE & TIME
September 29th from 7:00pm – 8:30pm

About Dr. Denise Cooper-Clarke

I am a graduate of medicine and theology with a Ph.D in medical ethics. I tutor in medical ethics at the University of Melbourne, am an (occasional) adjunct Lecturer in Ethics at Ridley Melbourne, and a voluntary researcher with Ethos. I am also a Fellow of ISCAST and a past chair of the Melbourne Chapter of Christians for Biblical Equality. I have special interests in professional ethics, sexual ethics and the ethics of virtue.

  • The Other Tom

    I think there is a way that vouchers could be issued, perhaps legally, but it’s different from what is done in cases I’ve seen.

    THE WAY IT HAS BEEN DONE:
    The way they do vouchers now seems to be that they give you a handout of taxpayer dollars, which you can then go give to a religious institution in violation of the constitution. This pisses us off because it is taking money out of our pockets and giving it to people to give to churches, essentially.

    THE WAY IT COULD BE DONE:
    They could give you a refund of tax dollars that you paid, in the amount of the percentage of your taxes that goes to the school system multiplied by the dollar amount of taxes you actually paid, if you have a child you are not sending to public school. So, it would not be “giving you other people’s money to give to your church school”, it would be “returning to you some of your own money that you were charged for services you decided not to use.” And at no time would anyone be given an outright handout of other people’s money, because it could never exceed what they paid in in the first place. You paid no taxes? You get no refund.

    I think it would be constitutional, and I think it also might be accepted by people who have traditionally opposed voucher programs because there won’t be that sense of “you’re taking away my money and giving it to them to give to their church school which is against my religion”. Speaking as an atheist who is generally opposed to school vouchers for that reason, I would be willing to accept the “tax rebate” thing, as long as the amount was limited in the manner described.

  • http://bjornisageek.blogspot.com Bjorn Watland

    Don’t sell yourself short, Jesse. People SHOULD travel to see you, it just doesn’t mean they MUST.

    Unfortunately, I’ll miss it by two days. I’ll get to hang out with the Beltway Atheists on Thursday as a good consolation prize.

  • http://www.secular.org Jesse Galef

    Bjorn, why are you coming to DC right when I’ll be in California for the AAI Convention? Was it deliberate planning or a tragic accident?

    Too bad; hopefully I’ll see you again in Minnesota!

  • Dave B.

    The vouchers serve a legitimate secular purpose of giving people more options to people stuck in an effective government monopoly. Unless you can make a case that the religious instruction is getting in the way of non-religious education, the argument seems weak.

    It makes no more sense to deny the use of vouchers at a religious school than it does to deny the use of food stamps at a kosher butcher. How is it our business to deny people an valid religious alternative at no additional cost to the taxpayer?

    This whole argument looks like a red herring thrown in to avoid having to argue vouchers on their merits. It’s a shame that some people care more about protecting public schools from competition than ensuring children have access to high-quality education.

    I don’t live near DC, so I’ll have to miss the argument in favor of this stance, but I found the position paper fairly unconvincing.

  • http://lyonlegal.blogspot.com/ Vincent

    Yarg!
    I have a meeting tonight or I’d be there.

  • Katy

    I have to agree with David B. I don’t live in DC, but I work in the Bronx, so I have some experience with the problems of the inner city. The public schools are terrible. The problem with Other Tom’s idea of a tax payer refund is that many of the families who would benefit most from the vouchers already aren’t paying taxes or not enough to cover tuition at a private school. Catholic schools are often the only option that is affordable- most secular private schools are way too expensive for the vouchers to cover. While I think the separation of church and state is really important, right now in a lot of inner cities, the Catholic church is the only instituion providing an affordable alternative.


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