Christian theocracy on the rise: New Trump budget would send $1 billion in taxpayer funds to support private religious schools.
Trump’s new budget proposal is a nightmare that would cut entitlements to people in need by $1.7 trillion dollars in order to pay for the recent $1.5 trillion in tax cuts that benefit mostly the rich and big corporations.
Yet in addition to the cuts in entitlements and a whole host of other bad things, the new budget would also send $1 billion in taxpayer funds to support private religious schools. The new budget request is four times greater than the $250 million request made last year.
Critics of the dramatic increase in taxpayer money going to private religious schools are sounding the alarm, warning that public education is being sacrificed on the altar of religious indoctrination.
For example, a press release from the Center For Inquiry notes:
School voucher programs siphon taxpayer money from public schools to fund the education of a relative few students in largely religiously affiliated private schools. These schools are given enormous leeway to discriminate against LGBTQ, nonreligious, and disabled students, and families forfeit their due process rights upon entering private schools.
Commenting on the new budget proposal, Robyn Blumner, president and CEO of the Center for Inquiry, said:
This administration is falling over itself to please the religious right, and this time it is to encourage parents to remove their children from pluralistic and secular public schools to enroll them instead in schools designed to indoctrinate children into religious beliefs. Voucher schemes benefit only a small number of students with no meaningful improvement in educational outcomes. What they also do is promote a divided America, where children go to school with only those who share their parents’ religious beliefs.
Public schools are tremendous incubators for tolerance, especially religious tolerance, where children interact with others from different faith traditions and no faith at all. The United States has escaped religious strife in part due to this system. Unfortunately the administration is looking to undermine what has worked so well for so long.
Maggie Garrett, legislative director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, issued the following statement in response to the new budget proposal:
We are disappointed that the president’s budget calls for $1 billion to expand and create new private school voucher programs – a huge increase from the $250 million that he called for in his FY2018 budget. The president should support public money funding public schools, rather than funneling those taxpayer dollars to private, religious schools through voucher schemes.
Vouchers divert desperately needed resources away from the public school system, which educates 90 percent of our students, to fund the education of a few voucher students in private, religious schools. Voucher programs are an ineffective and damaging education policy: they do not improve – and can even lead to declines in – student achievement. They also lack accountability to taxpayers, deprive students of civil rights protections and often provide students with fewer resources than they would have in public schools.
Vouchers violate the religious freedom of both taxpayers and religious schools. The government should not compel any citizen to furnish funds in support of a religion with which he or she disagrees – or even a religion with which he or she does agree. Vouchers also threaten the religious liberty and autonomy of religious schools, as vouchers open them up to government audits, monitoring, control and interference from which they would otherwise be exempt.
We believe that public funds should fund public schools; therefore, we urge Congress to reject this budget’s voucher proposal.
Bottom line: The new Trump budget would send $1 billion to private religious schools, sacrificing public education on the altar of religious indoctrination.
And so it goes.