Editorial: More Jones Street madness: 'Opportunity (for the right kids) Scholarships'
Posted August 17, 2016
A CBC Editorial: Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2016; Editorial# 8043
The following is the opinion of Capitol Broadcasting Company
Imagine a U.S. state where the government paid scholarship money to schools that discriminate and refuse to admit certain students.
In North Carolina, there’s nothing to imagine. It’s happening.
Thanks to the taxpayer-funded school voucher program known as “Opportunity Scholarships,” state government pays up to $4,200 a year for income-qualified students to attend private schools – no strings attached. It is the wrong way to go.
A recent examination of some private schools in the Charlotte area accepting voucher money showed they also had admission policies discriminating against some students – particularly gay and transgender students.
At Lake Norman Christian School in Mecklenburg County, Headmaster Wes Johnston, says there are “certain things” the Christian church stands for. “We don’t discriminate. We discriminate scripturally, if that’s a thing to say,” Johnston told The Charlotte Observer.
The school’s handbook says “moral misconduct includes, but is not limited to, promiscuity, homosexual behavior, sexual orientation other than heterosexual, transgender identity, or any other violation of the unique roles of male and female.”
Would a stay-at-home dad, or a mom working outside the home be beyond “the unique roles?” That’s up to the school to decide.
The Constitution and its Bill of Rights give us freedoms to practice our faith as we see fit. But, it does not give government license to use taxpayer dollars to support and promote certain religious practices.
State Rep. Paul “Skip” Stam, a Republican from Wake County, sees the scholarship issue as one between students, the students’ parents and the schools. The rest of the state’s taxpayers, who actually provide the money for the program, are irrelevant. There are plenty of private schools that don’t discriminate, he contends.
“(Parents) can choose one of the other hundreds of schools or they can start their own,” Stam said.
There are 400 schools in North Carolina participating in the program. During the last school year, more than $13.3 million was distributed to schools, according to the Opportunity Scholarship website. For the coming school year the legislature set aside $25 million for the program.
The Lake Norman Christian School received $29,272. For others, the payout is very significant. Trinity Christian in Fayetteville led the state with nearly $520,000 while the Greensboro Islamic Academy followed at $373,800.
Rep. Stam may think this is about a relationship between students, parents and schools. He is misguided. He leaves out the most significant partner – the taxpayers.
It is just plain wrong. Taxpayer dollars should not support discrimination. Schools receiving state voucher funds should show they do not discriminate in their admissions policies.
If schools choose to discriminate, that’s their business. Taxpayers shouldn’t be footing the bill.