Opinion

Opinion

Private Christian schools receiving taxpayer-funded school vouchers continue to exclude students on basis of religion, sexual identity

Posted January 27

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by Lindsay Wagner
A.J. Fletcher Foundation

The following was posted by the A.J. Fletcher Foundation. The original post is available here.

A review of the student handbooks of several private Christian schools in North Carolina that receive hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxpayer-funded school vouchers finds that attendance at these schools is limited to families who believe in Jesus Christ; families that do not have members who are gay, lesbian or transgender; and families who are willing to have their children undergo physical punishment at the direction of school administrators.

“FCS [Fayetteville Christian School] will not admit families that engage in illicit drug use, sexual promiscuity, homosexuality (LGBT) or other behaviors that Scripture defines as deviate and perverted,” says the school’s handbook, which can be viewed online here.

Heterosexual students who have a family member who identifies as LGBT are also barred from attending the school, the handbook says.

Fayetteville Christian School ranks third in the state in the amount of taxpayer-funded school vouchers, formally known as “Opportunity Scholarships,” that the school has received for the 2016-17 academic school year—$249,708 as of late December 2016. Since the beginning of North Carolina’s school voucher program in 2014, Fayetteville Christian School has received $653,375 from state coffers.

Fayetteville Christian School also bars admission to Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Muslims, non-Messianic Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, and “etc.” Students who become pregnant may not attend daily classes, the handbook says—and having an abortion is grounds for expulsion.

Raleigh’s Word of God Christian Academy (WOGCA) bars admission to students who don’t lead lifestyles that reflect Christian standards and requires parents to come to school to paddle their children in the presence of a school administrator if other disciplinary methods administered by teachers prove ineffective, according to the school’s student handbook.

“If the parent refuses to comply with the [paddling] request, the student will be suspended for no more than three school days,” the handbook says, which you can read online here.

WOGCA has received $253,575 in school vouchers to date for the 2016-17 academic school year, according to state records. Since the start of the school voucher program WOGCA has taken in at least $781,575 taxpayer dollars.

Liberty Christian Academy in Richlands, which has received $245,836 to date in school vouchers for 2016-17, also bars admission to students and families that identify as LGBT.

“Living in, practicing, condoning, or supporting sexual immorality, including but not limited to, sex outside of marriage, homosexual acts, bi-sexual acts; gender identity different than the birth sex at the chromosomal level; promoting such practices; or otherwise the inability to support the moral principles of the school (Leviticus, 20:13a, Romans 1:27, Matthew 19:4-6),” are all grounds for expulsion or the denial of admission to Liberty Christian Academy.

Raleigh Christian Academy, which has received $194,466 so far this academic year in school voucher funds, considers “homosexuality, lesbianism and bisexuality” grounds for expulsion, according to its handbook. The school also stands in opposition to what they characterize as a “progressive education.”

RCA is in opposition to progressive education in which the emphasis is upon the following:

  1. Questioning the answers
  2. Experimentation
  3. The innate goodness of man
  4. The suppressive nature of discipline
  5. The relativity of all things (including morals)
  6. Omitting God and His Word from the educational process

The Century Foundation, based in Washington, D.C., conducted its own review of North Carolina private Christian schools receiving taxpayer-funded school vouchers and also noted many similar exclusionary admissions policies. The report also looks at racial, ethnic and cultural biases at these schools as well as income discrimination.

North Carolina has disbursed nearly $11 million in taxpayer funds for ‘Opportunity Scholarships’ for this academic year. An additional $3 million has been disbursed for ‘Disability Grants,’ which are publicly funded school vouchers intended for use by families with students who have special needs.

State lawmakers enacted the Opportunity Scholarships program, also known as school vouchers, back in 2013. The program gives low-income families up to $4,200 in taxpayer funds annually to spend at private schools.

Proponents of school vouchers say that the program enables low-income families to opt out of failing public schools to attend private institutions that offer better educational environments.

But critics of the program say that the vouchers siphon funds away from the underfunded public school system and sends those tax dollars to private schools without accountability and transparency measures that ensure students are indeed getting a better education.

The Opportunity Scholarships law also fails to ensure that private schools receiving tax dollars do not discriminate against students on the basis of religion or sexual identity.

Critics of the school voucher program challenged it in the courts, claiming that sending public dollars to private schools violated the state’s constitution. A lower court judge agreed, saying “the General Assembly fails the children of North Carolina when they are sent with public taxpayer money to private schools that have no legal obligation to teach them anything.”

Ultimately the state Supreme Court overturned that lower court ruling, keeping the school voucher program up and running. Last year, lawmakers passed legislation that intends to expand the school voucher program from its original annual price tag of $10 million up to $135 million annually by 2026.

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