Friday, August 09, 2002

School Voucher Hypocrisy

What I find most interesting about the court challenge to school vouchers in Florida is that the voucher opponents have chosen to challenge the small Opportunity Scholarship Program (part of Jeb Bush's A+ education plan) but have remained silent about the much larger McKay scholarships for special-education students. Of course, McKay is not running for Governor. If the Blaine Amendment is upheld in Florida, it would have grave consequences for special education students as well. The McKay scholarship program has more than 8,000 students receiving school vouchers to go to more than 400 different Florida private schools. Many of these schools are religious. If the Florida Blaine Amendment were found to be constitutional, the special education students would also be barred from using school vouchers for religious schools.

The NEA, People for the American Way, PTA, AFT, and all the others who fight against school vouchers, do not have the courage to stick with their anti-voucher principles when it comes to special-education students. No one is willing to acknowledge the attack on families where children have disabilities, even if those families are benefiting from the voucher programs they rail against under different circumstances. We would do well to remind the media and all the stakeholders, that in Florida, the choices of more than 8,000 special education students are also at risk.

State constitutions in 47 states still restrict state legislatures from approving voucher money for "sectarian" private schools under a provision known as the Blaine Amendment. After the Blaine Amendment -- which sought to prevent public money from falling into the hands of private Catholic schools -- failed in Congress in 1875, many states simply amended their own constitutions to adopt the language.

Acton Institute provides a detailed history of Blaine Amendments.

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