School Vouchers Violate State Constitution, Rules Colorado Supreme Court

The Colorado Supreme Court ruled on Monday to discontinue a Douglas County voucher program meant to funnel money from public education into private schools.

The reasoning for the decision was that the program, which had been implemented in 2011, was violating the a part of the state constitution which says that state money may not go to any school “controlled by any church or sectarian denomination whatsoever.”

This is, naturally, a blow to conservative school voucher advocates, and a victory for both champions of public schooling and the separation of church and state.

While it’s understandable that parents might want to send their children to a better school, or one more in line with their personal and religious beliefs, school vouchers are an inherently unfair idea.

My problem with school vouchers is twofold. First, obviously I do not think that public funds should be spent on religious education. That’s wrong on multiple levels. We (the public) don’t ask for money from your collection plate, you don’t ask for money from ours. It’s important for both of us that this separation remain intact.

The only way in which I would support public school funds going to anything religious, honestly, would be if we decided to get rid of Common Core and No Child Left Behind and ask the Jesuits to redesign our education system, while maintaining secularity. I’ve said this for years and while I’m sure some of my fellow advocates for church-state separation would disagree with me here, there’s just no question that they know what they’re doing when it comes to educating people. I say use whatever resources you have in this, and they are without question, a very good resource here.

Second, I don’t have kids, and I have to pay taxes towards public schools. I am OK with this. Why? Because even if I never have kids, I benefit from an educated populace. Thus, the idea that people who have kids should not have to contribute to that, except for their own kid is, pretty annoying to me. People who want to send their kids to private school should pay for it their own damn selves, and have to contribute to public education because that is something we all benefit from.

Also, as Jonathan Kozol put it:

Here’s the thing: When people think of the recipients of vouchers or charters, the general public tends to think of the familiar benign model. They say, “Why should we send our kids to a failing school?” instead of asking “What should we be doing to make sure that we don’t have a separate, unequal system which creates failing schools?” It’s a triumph of the individual self-interest over civic virtue. Americans who are drawn to the voucher idea tend to think, “What’s wrong with a nice Catholic school or a Lutheran or a Montessori school?” There’s nothing wrong inherently with that. But constitutionally, once you let this genie out of the bottle you can’t restrict it to the kind of schools that seem benign.

There’s no question that there are problems with our public schools. A lot of my friends are teachers so it’s something I hear about all the time. We need more funding for public schools though, not less – or it at least needs to be evened out a little. It’s upsetting to me, and I imagine to others, that some kids attend schools that don’t even have enough funds for a school nurse, while other schools have every available amenity. I believe that all children should be treated to an equal education in our public school system regardless of where their parents can afford to live.

School vouchers are not the answer. Charter schools are definitely not the answer (ask any teacher about how swell corporations are at running schools, and prepare to be there for two hours). This whole constant testing thing is not the answer.

I’m not sure if I have the answer, except that I think that it is our responsibility to make sure that every child in this country has access to a quality education, because it’s a necessary thing for our country’s survival. It shouldn’t be something determined by a lottery, like a voucher system is. If the system is broke, fix it — don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater because this is something we really do need.