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State funding church: 93 percent of ‘scholarship program’ vouchers go to religious schools

Little girl saying her prayers over an open New Testament'(Shutterstock)

In this year alone the state of North Carolina has spent $12 million on what they refer to as Opportunity Scholarships, which exist to help lower income families move their children from public to private schools. Of that $12 million, approximately $11 million has gone to faith-based schools and only $800,000 to secular schools.

According to the Charlotte Observer the scholarship gives a meager $4,200 per pupil. While it costs almost $8,800 for a student in public schools.

“The old saying goes, you get what you pay for. I believe that’s going to be the case,” Bill Anderson, an administrator in the UNC Charlotte College of Education told The Observer. “Our country was founded on the separation of church and state. If parents want to send their children to these kind of schools they have every right to, but I don’t think the taxpayers should be paying for it.”

If the First Amendment outlaws the government from “respecting an establishment of religion” the state of North Carolina is respecting an establishment of religion to the tune of 93 percent. The U.S. Supreme Court, however, signed off on state and federal funding going to religious institutions in a 2002 ruling when Justice Antonin Scalia still sat on the bench. Without him on the bench, however, a voucher program in Douglas County, Colorado may bring the whole issue back to the court for a revote.

Free-market economist Milton Friedman is seen by many to be the “grandfather” of vouchers, but even he dismissed the idea that vouchers help low-income families, saying “it is essential that no conditions be attached to the acceptance of vouchers that interfere with the freedom of private enterprises to experiment.”

Vouchers also pull much-needed funding from public schools where the majority of students attend. As conservative anti-taxes advocate Grover Norquist explained, “We win just by debating school choice, because the alternative is to discuss the need to spend more money…”

In the 2016-17 school year, nearly $25 million will be available to students applying for the Opportunity Scholarships. Last year, the North Carolina senate even gave money to these private schools for services that the schools may not even provide. This while North Carolina ranked 46th in the nation on per-pupil spending, according to the National Education Association.

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Sarah K. Burris: