Lindsay Wagner writes in NC Policy Watch that 90% of the students using the state’s new vouchers are attending religious schools. The institution receiving the largest number of vouchers is the Greensboro Islamic Academy.
The vouchers are given the euphemism “opportunity scholarships,” in an effort to disguise the fact that they are vouchers, which voters never approved.
North Carolina legislators are proving that our Founders were far wiser than legislators today. The Founders wanted no establishment of religion, and they did not foresee the subsidy of religious schools by the state. It was Thomas Jefferson who wrote about separation of church and state in 1802, aware of centuries of religious strife in Europe. For years, the U.S. Supreme Court tried to maintain such a wall, allowing some subsidy for religious schools to perform state-required activities, subsidizing textbooks and testing, even transportation, but not tuition in religious schools.
“Religious private schools account for 90 percent of those receiving the state’s new taxpayer-funded school vouchers—a disproportionately high amount given that only 66.4 percent of the state’s 715 private schools are religious institutions.
“According to data released by the N.C. State Educational Assistance Authority, 98 out of the 109 private schools that have received vouchers (formally known as Opportunity Scholarships) from the state so far are religious institutions. Ninety-four of those schools identify as Christian, and four other schools identify as Islamic. To date, the state has disbursed just over $1 million to the religious schools.
“The largest recipient of school voucher dollars thus far is Greensboro Islamic Academy. The school has received more than $90,000 from taxpayers while information has surfaced indicating that the school is in financial trouble and has inflated its tuition rates to reap as many publicly-funded vouchers as possible to stay afloat.
“The Opportunity Scholarship Program, which lawmakers enacted last year, siphons approximately $10.8 million dollars out of the public school system to allow students to attend private and religious schools instead. Each voucher is worth a maximum of $4,200 per student, per year.
“Proponents of the program say the voucher program is a way to give low-income students better choices when it comes to their education; critics say it siphons badly needed funds away from public education and funnels them into unaccountable, religious private schools that are not obligated to hold themselves to high quality teaching standards.
“In August, a Superior Court judge found that the program violates the state’s constitutional mandate to use public funds only for public schools – but thanks to a Court of Appeals ruling last month, the state must disburse school vouchers that have already been awarded while the case winds its way through the state appellate courts.”