Vouchers unconstitutional

The separation of church and state is one of the fundamental principles our country is built upon. Ready access to a public system of education is something that the United States is also proud of. Yet while Americans cherish the freedom of religion here, religion should play no part in public education.

School vouchers indirectly support religious organizations and violate the constitution’s separation of church and state. Under voucher programs, parents receive money, similar to a coupon, that can be used to pay tuition at private schools. The program currently under scrutiny before the Supreme Court is out of Cleveland, where vouchers provide up to $2,250 each, and 96 percent of people who receive the vouchers use them at religious schools.

While it is clear that direct funding of religious schools violates the separation of church and state, for some it is less clear whether indirect funding through vouchers is also a violation. Parents can use the vouchers at any school, be it public or private. Those who favor the vouchers argue that it is not a violation because the vouchers do not favor one religion over another. However, they are missing the problem with school vouchers.

Vouchers are essentially public funding of religious education. But states cannot financially support religious activities, and thus vouchers clearly violate the Constitution. Prayer is not allowed in public schools for this same reason; taxpayer money cannot fund religious activities. While the government issuing the vouchers might argue that the money is going into the hands of the parents to do with it what they will, in the case of Cleveland, nearly all of the money ended up funding faith-based schools. However, if the nation’s public schools were not in such bad shape, parents in Cleveland and elsewhere might be more inclined to send their children and the money to public schools. Thus, vouchers fund religious activities while simultaneously taking money away from the public schools that so desperately need it.

It is the government’s duty to make sure that the nation’s children receive quality education. It is not the government’s duty to help fund religious teaching. After all, taxpayers do not pay for Sunday school, so there is no reason that taxpayers should help foot the bill for religious teachings during the school day. Separation of church and state was put into place to uphold religious freedom. The Supreme Court needs to sustain that separation while the government needs to direct the funds slated for vouchers into the public school system. Public education is the backbone of the United States, and children are the future whether their belief system has a school for them or not.