Kimberly Quick of The Century Foundation describes the many exclusionary policies of North Carolina’s voucher schools.


Here is a sampling:


Conservative education reformers have aggressively marketed the expansion of K–12 private school voucher programs as a method to increase access to educational options. Their arguments begin to break down, however, when asking the questions, Access for whom? And to what?


The types of voucher-centered school choice schemes promoted by both President-elect Trump and Betsy DeVos, his nominee for U.S. Secretary of Education (ED), like most programs in education policy, are administered by states and localities. Trump’s open denigration of the Department of Education’s civil rights and standards oversight functions further indicate that a DeVos ED will place few stipulations on how states receiving federal funds for vouchers must design and implement those programs.


Some of those voucher programs might look something like the highly discriminatory North Carolina Opportunity Scholarship Act. Established by the state legislature in 2013, the program offers low-income and working-class families state-funded tuition scholarships to private schools of up to $4,200. In some ways, the Opportunity Scholarship might seem innocuous. Private schools receiving state funds are required to test scholarship recipients (though notably not with state tests for direct comparison, and there is virtually no obligation for public disclosure), and most students must have spent time in public schools prior to private school enrollment to be eligible—conditions that are missing in other programs in states like Indiana and Wisconsin. But even the quickest examination of the types of schools taking taxpayer money reveals that state dollars are, in actuality, too often funding discrimination.


An overwhelming number of the more than 400 private schools registered in the program are religiously affiliated. Although a divided U.S. Supreme Court ruled that vouchers used for religious school attendance do not violate the establishment clause, the primary issue with North Carolina’s program is not that the schools themselves are religious, but that too many condition admission and retention on dogmatic adherence to specific religious doctrine, usually excluding those who are LGBTQ or come from non-churchgoing families.

Religious and LGBTQ Discrimination


Alamance Christian School (ACS) received $121,132 in public voucher funds during the 2015–2016 academic year, all while maintaining an official, publically available admissions policy that explicitly bars all faiths outside of Christianity, along with children from families that are “Catholic, Mormon, Jehovah’s Witness, Seventh Day Adventist, Christian Science” and more. To confirm that they are from the “right” type of Christian family, children seeking admission must produce a pastoral reference. Then, before enrolling, all middle and high school students are expected to sign a commitment form pledging to refrain from “homosexual/bisexual behaviors, or any other biblical violation of the unique roles of males and females.”


And ACS is not some random oversight, a school hiding out within the list of eligibles despite a uniquely restrictive profile. Instead, it reflects the biases of several other schools that are partially funded by the dollars of taxpayers, some of whom aren’t allowed to send their children to those very institutions. For instance, one of the schools receiving the most public money, Fayetteville Christian School (receiving more than $285,000 in 2015–2016) has near identical restrictions, requiring regular church attendance of applicants and parents, issuing the following statement on their website:


“The student and at least one parent with whom the student resides must be in full agreement with the FCS Statement of Faith and have received Jesus Christ as their Savior. In addition, the parent and student must regularly fellowship in a local faith based, Bible believing church. Accordingly, FCS will not admit families that belong to or express faith in non-Christian religions such as, but not limited to: Mormons (LDS Church), Jehovah’s Witnesses, Muslims (Islam), non-Messianic Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, etc. Accordingly, FCS will not admit families that engage in illegal drug use, sexual promiscuity, homosexuality (LGBT) or other behaviors that Scripture defines as deviate and perverted. Once admitted, if the student or parent/guardian with whom the student resides becomes involved in any of the above activities it will be grounds for dismissal of the student/family from the school. (Also see pages 9 and 28 of the Student Handbook)”


At Raleigh Christian Academy, which collected about $233,000 in state money through the voucher program, the administration mandates that “no young man do anything which might detract from his masculinity,” calling anything other than that narrowly and vaguely defined masculine ideal “an abomination before God.” The school also reminds its female students that “Satan desires to take away from a lady’s feminine qualities.” Not only are the identities of gender non-conforming and other LGBTQ students under attack in many “Opportunity” schools, these students—along with straight student whose families fail to conform to specific religious doctrine—have abridged options, even as their parents pay tax dollars to a state that rubber stamps their exclusion.


Read on for more reasons to keep the unwanted out.


Will DeVos require non-discrinatory admissions to religious schools? Don’t count on it.