Vouchers And Religious Discrimination

Can you stand one more rant about the un-American motives and consequences of school voucher programs?

I’ve been following a case that was filed last year in North Carolina. So far as I have been able to tell, it is still working its way through that state’s courts. The Raleigh News and Observer reported on the filing last July, noting that seven North Carolina parents had partially based their claim that program was unconstitutional on the fact that it provides funding to schools that engage in religious discrimination. 

The program has been controversial since it was launched in 2014. Supporters say it gives parents more choice in educating their children. Opponents say it siphons millions of tax dollars away from public schools each year and requires little accountability from private schools that receive the funds. 

The Complaint identified the parents as state taxpayers who have school-age children who can’t use the vouchers at certain private schools due to their religious beliefs, their identities or their sexual orientations, and the suit alleges that public funds are supporting schools “that divide communities on religious lines, disparage many North Carolinians’ faiths and identities, and coerce families into living under religious dictates.”

Another story, from the Citizen Times, documented the accuracy of those assertions.

In 2017, Elizabeth Meininger, a police officer in Fayetteville, went to enroll her two young children at Berean Baptist Academy, a local private school.

Elizabeth and her wife, Kate, liked Berean’s curriculum and felt its small class sizes could challenge their daughter and son, who seemed to be overlooked in their large county school system.

The Meiningers’ combined income qualified them for North Carolina’s Opportunity Scholarships, a $4,200 public voucher they could put toward covering private school tuition. With the voucher, Berean was affordable — less than half the price of a non-religious private option like Fayetteville Academy.

Yet soon after Elizabeth and Kate started Berean’s application process, the school informed them it wouldn’t accept their children. According to Elizabeth, school officials said Berean only accepted Christian families and the Meiningers couldn’t be Christian if they were gay.

Elizabeth and Kate subsequently discovered that, every year, Berean took in hundreds of thousands in taxpayer dollars through the North Carolina voucher program. The paper further reported that of the eight schools that had received the most Opportunity Scholarship money last year, six had explicit policies against students or parents who are homosexual, transgender, and gender non-conforming.

It gets worse: Many of the schools taking taxpayer money use a “science” curriculum that teaches the earth was created six thousand years ago, in six days, by God. In science class.

In the 2019-2020 school year, North Carolina doled out $48 million in scholarships–money that would otherwise have been available for the state’s public school systems. The schools benefitting most from this largesse clearly feel no compunction to hide their discriminatory policies. According to the article, Berean took in $855,877 in vouchers in 2019, the second highest amount in the state, and as part of its published school policy, “factors in” students and families’ sexual orientation and gender identity.

Another religious school, Liberty Christian Academy, received $651,641 in 2019-20, the third-most in the state. The school lists “participating in, supporting, or condoning sexual immorality, homosexual activist, bisexual activity” as reason for denying or removing students. Yet another–Northwood Temple Academy– took in $500,000. Its website cites biblical passages supporting its anti-gay policies.

The tax dollars being sent to these discriminatory schools–dollars being used to indoctrinate American children into very unAmerican attitudes–come from all North Carolina’s citizens–including those who are Muslim, Jewish, and gay and transgender, despite the fact that few if any voucher schools will accept their children.

it’s hard to disagree with Craig White, a bisexual man who works at the Asheville-based Campaign for Southern Equality, who is quoted as saying  “I should have the right to see my tax dollars not go to an institution that labels me as an abomination.” 

The challenge is based on North Carolina’s state constitution. But even if this program doesn’t run afoul of that charter, it is terrible public policy.

Before we had reams of research showing that voucher programs do not improve academic outcomes, it may have been possible to justify support for vouchers as a mechanism allowing poor children to escape failing public schools. But not only have we seen that those children do no better–and often worse–academically, we have seen legislators substantially raise the income limits for participation. 

Welcome to the new “Christian” version of the old segregation academy…


  1. Why doesn’t the North Carolina Legislature resolve the problem quickly and easily as Indiana Legislature did; just lie by saying the voucher money goes directly to the parents, not the private religious schools. That ended the argument here for as long as Republicans rule this state.

  2. We should NEVER allow even one dollar of public money to go to a church school. Not one dollar. This is terrible and must stop.

  3. The religion-based private schools these days are modern equivalents of the “private academies” that were established in the South following the Brown v. Board of Education decision which made racial discrimination in the public school systems unconstitutional.

    These days, there seems to be no one who acts less like a Christian than the people who thump their Bibles to tell us how pious they are, as they violate any number of the teachings in the book they hold.

  4. In my just released book, “Saving the Seed Corn: A Memoir by an Educator for Educators and Parents” (Amazon.com), I address this issue of vouchers in great detail. Sorry for the flack, but vouchers are just another Republican initiative to suck more public money away from the greater good to fund their friends making profits off of gullible parents.

    Diane Ravitch, Bush’s former NCLB promoter came to her senses and wrote a couple of books in which she showed that private school test scores show little or no difference to public school test scores.

    As with just about everything else Republicans touch, vouchers is pure scam.

  5. If only we could withhold taxes from a government which we disagree with…how “un-American.”

    I would only send about 25% of my federal taxes to Washington, but the two-party hacks made sure my taxes come straight from my labor – how “un-American.”

    If they are teaching about the construction of Noah’s Ark in Science class, the Republican Party will have future solid straight-ticket voters. Isn’t that what their true motive is all about?

    They have no qualms destroying human lives if it means power to the party. Sacrificing generation after generation to further the cause – providing a solid voting base for the Oligarchy.

    The boring part is the other Oligarchy-controlled political party just has to oppose the backward party. It’s why Nancy Pelosi aired (maybe erred) openly that the Democrats didn’t go after the Republicans who instigated the staged attack on Capitol Hill. She said, “We need a strong Republican Party.”

    While they present another media production about security in Washington, they still have no plans to bring forth and charge the insurrectionists who financed the whole affair. It’s all political theater with very poor acting.

    And since we have a two-party system where one worships Satan, the other party can claim the righteous path even though nothing could be further from the truth.

    Now you know why the Oligarchs only want a two-party system. 😉

  6. “And since we have a two-party system where one worships Satan, the other party can claim the righteous path even though nothing could be further from the truth.”

    Todd; “the other party” is following democracy, Rule of Law and upholding the Constitution of the United States as its path. How do you see that as “nothing could be further from the truth”?

  7. Vernon, I look forward to reading your book. I’ve read all of Diane Ravitch’s. She’s a fierce proponent of a “uniform and general system of public schools” that most state constitutions require their governments to support.

    What is shocking to me is that 100’s of new fundamentalist Christian schools haven’t sprouted up all over the state, given that Indiana’s voucher program is the biggest in the nation (and about to become bigger – it will be near universal if HB1005 passes into law). That they haven’t reveals that the true objective has little to do with parental choice and everything to do with the destruction of our general system of public schools. 

    What education “reformers” once derided as:

    “The Blob” (public schools, teacher unions, university Ed departments, IDOE and USDOE) has now become:

    “The Eleven-Headed Monster”: (traditional public schools, charter-schools, cyber-schools, private school management & consulting companies, voucher-accepting private schools, Ed Tech & Testing Industry, Billionaire White-Savior Ed Foundations, USDOE, INDOE, IN State Board of Ed, and successive complicit IN General Assemblies and Governors.

    It’s made public education in Indiana FAR more expensive, FAR more complicated and, worst of all, FAR less effective.

  8. If someone asks you “What is systemic racism?” as I was recently, you can point out the Indiana Voucher system. You can point to the exclusiveness of the participants in the program that at the same time defunds the public schools where most minorities send their children. You can point to the Indianapolis Museum of Art, that like the Indianapolis Zoo, charges an entrance fee that is beyond the ability of the minorities to pay, thus keeping them out so that they do not mingle with the privileged whites. You can then point to the gerrymandering in the State Legislature that allows the unbridled and endless attacks on the state’s cities where the majority of the state’s minorities live, attacks on those city’s ability to tax, regulate and govern themselves.
    The racism of the Klan never ended in Indiana. It no longer wears white robes and hoods; it is in a suit and tie and in the state’s legislature.

  9. Patrick,

    Thank you. I am sure you’ll find a nugget or two that speaks to today’s blog as well as the larger picture of education.

    BTW, bumping the kids from a gay family because being gay is not Christian is another right-wing ruse. To my knowledge, Jesus never said anything about gay people. All he allegedly said was “Love one another.” Once again, evangelical perversion comes to the rescue of truth.

  10. Amen, Theresa!

    Your last paragraph is a reminder that the KKK claims Christianity; they can mix easily with the general public in suits and ties…and conservative dress for the women elected to all levels of local government.

  11. JoAnn,

    I know it won’t be covered on MSNBC or the Maddow show, we are an oligarchy – not a democratic republic. It doesn’t matter who publishes the study declaring this fact, Americans are in denial.

    And for that matter, we don’t spread democracy around the world. Our military and CIA spread disinformation to distract from the fact they are instilling Banana Republics for Oligarchs to extract resources from countries. For our current injection of capitalism on a socialist state, please see Ecuador. According to our interference there, with the help of the Columbian drug cartel, the Russians are amateurs. Need I mention, Syria, Libya, Ukraine, Venezuela, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc.

  12. Is this a spin-off of GWB’s “Faith Based” BS, itself a possible off-shoot of Reagan’s “We need to get back to our spirituality,” or some such?
    In any case I am both glad Sheila, that you raised the issue, and as you suggested, upset that this abomination continues!
    Oh, by the way, we just passed the universe’s birthday, according to Bishop Usher, 2/22/2004, BC.
    When mythology is taken to be literal truth, Pandora’s Box flies open lol.

  13. Theresa,

    “You can point to the Indianapolis Museum of Art, that like the Indianapolis Zoo, charges an entrance fee that is beyond the ability of the minorities to pay, thus keeping them out so that they do not mingle with the privileged whites.” Excuse me, it is also beyond the ability of poor whites to pay…NOT RACISM. This is how the GOP appeals to them re “identity politics”.

  14. Mitch,

    Pandora’s box spit out today’s Republican party and Donald Trump. Smart people stomped on the lid to close it again.

    Todd keeps telling us about how much of an oligarchy we are. Perhaps, but as long as those who still accept that, they’ll just throw up their hands and say, “What can we do? The money people have all the power.”

    Fighting against voter suppression is the most patriotic thing we can do right now. That means defeating Republicans everywhere. They know they have nothing to offer. That’s why they are trying to stop people from voting… especially “those” people. The Republican party is where the oligarchs live, Todd. Try venting some of your energy at defeating them. We all pretty much know what they are.

  15. Lester, you are right in that the entrance fees also keep out the poor generally. But recent reports on the focus of the Art Museum toward race over poverty shows the depth of their racism.

  16. Todd, I like to think of it as a Crony-Capitalist Oligarchy. Democratic Socialism and Libertarianism are both preferable alternative forms of government and Marxism and Fascism are not but we’re headed for the latter.

  17. I don’t think the voucher program is evil in itself. There are a few good examples of where I think they did some good, with schools like Irvington Community Schools, or Herron High.

    But I still firmly believe if you are going to take tax dollars, there can be no discrimination on who you can admit, and worst yet, state standards for educational curriculum need to be followed. This is just another example of lax regulations for the sake of profit, ideology, and discrimination.

    Theresa is absolutely right on the motivation driving Indiana’s voucher program.

  18. Theresa – Curious as I don’t live in Indy….”recent reports on the focus of the Art Museum toward race over poverty shows the depth of their racism.” – a bit more about that? Thanks in advance.

  19. Guess one could say, validly, that I am gender nonconformist as I am a single white women living alone without children! Or any single parent who have a different faith tradition? This is against the standard definition of how people should live and populate according to many conservative religions.

    Expansion of this category to ALL single, nonmarried, persons might give more weight to the legal challenges on these points.

    How about Monks and Priests and Nuns who might adopt kids and desire to enroll them in a private school which discriminants against people who choose to live a life of faith (or secular) different than others?

  20. Educate me please. How is discrimination permitted in any business ever? I thought that it had been determined to be wrong by wedding cake bakers, but is it allowed in private schools?

  21. Thanks, Theresa. So…museums are in big trouble as a “business”; they are non-profits. And with public education, like “art appreciation” almost non-existent as young people are glued to screens with “pop culture/sports”; what is their future? From a frank, business perspective the ad was stark honest – the current “customers” for the Museum are exactly as stated. The trick and challenge, as clearly stated is to keep current customers WHILE broadening the customer base and doing more good by appealing to more diversity. IMHO, the uproar is nothing but PC.

  22. Given their embarrassing failures across so many fronts, it’s surprising that Republicans have enjoyed such resounding success with their top priority program – the dumbing down of America. Voucher schools are in a position to further cash in on that success as they deny a real education to anti-academic, ideological families and make children more obedient by excluding critical thinking from their curricula. Nothing swells Republican ranks like denying their children the truth and prohibiting their questioning of what they are told. Toss in a dose of self-righteousness, bigotry and racism and stir gently, tell them that they are superior because of their prejudices and you have the makings of the perfect Orwellian citizen. What you get eventually is what they are inheriting from the recently drained cesspool – a possibility that Lara Trump might run for the Senate in 2022 to replace Senator Burr who voted to impeach her father-in-law. Of the very few occupations in America that have no job requirements, the Senate is one of the better paying positions and Lara is perfectly qualified.

  23. Religion is a tax free business! Whatever is related to the church or can be claimed as related, doesn’t have to worry about taxes. Most churches don’t have to worry about utilities either! so whatever they get from the government as in Catholic charities receiving grants from the government and other churches receiving those grants for their charities, it’s a big win for them. Whatever they take in from contributions by the general public they don’t have to pay taxes on. And let’s not forget property taxes!

    Who wouldn’t like to be in a business where you don’t have to pay taxes? Whether it’s education or construction or hospitality or any business related to a church?

    It never has been about worship, it’s always been about the dollar, the dollar and power is their god, not anything other than that.

    When the Constitution was written, they only were concerned about two religious groups, the Catholics and the Protestants which were fighting each other in Europe for centuries. Any Muslims that were in the United States were slaves, so they didn’t have to worry about that. Now there are hundreds of religions in the united states, how can you take tax money from every citizen and funnel it into Catholic schools? Or Protestant schools? Or any other specific religious based school? It’s wrong no matter how you look at it.

  24. Dan Mullendore–Herron High is a Charter School. Charters are PUBLIC schools; they do not take vouchers and they are bound by the same constitutional constraints that traditional public schools are. Vouchers are used to send children to private–mostly religious–schools.

  25. Charter schools also discriminate against many special ed. and non-English speaking students. They will often enroll them until the pupil count date (on which their per student dollar distribution from the state is determined) and then tell the parents that they don’t have a program to serve their child’s needs and they should probably return to a traditional public school. These students are ‘counseled out’ of the so-called “public” school. Traditional public schools have no such option. They must creatively find a way to serve that child, regardless of their language or other special need.

  26. …”vouchers as a mechanism allowing poor children to escape failing public schools.” That’s the phrase that has always bothered me. Instead of giving the money to private schools, why don’t they use the money to improve those “failing” schools? And what happens to the children left behind in those failing schools? Are they just written off as not worth the money or time? The whole voucher system is offensive and a waste of taxpayer money.

  27. Joy – you hit the nail on the head – what about those who are left behind –

    As I’ve probably mentioned before, the “magnet” school, precursor to the Charter school, left the impression among some faculty that those “left behind” were idiots (of course there was also racism involved) – I received a truncated math class in my senior year of high school by not attending the magnet school

    On the other hand, vouchers have always been about supporting religious school indoctrination on the public dime while starving the public schools. That way everyone in a non-voucher school gets left behind.

    And that doesn’t mention the social function of public education that both Sheila and I have commented upon before.

  28. Brown v. Board was the best thing that ever happened to racist parents. It gave them impetus to find an escape from having their children associate with those “others” and finding a way to finance their “choice” in educating their children – and it worked. Tax money is used to now tell children in science classes that the world is 6,000 years old, a claim I am sure Darwin would deny if he were present. I am present and I deny it.

    The people who take such nonsense at heart are by and large the same people who think Truump should be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and that Biden should order flags at half mast in honor of all the wonderful contributions Limbaugh has given us over the years – which I also deny.

    If religious or others who for reasons of their own wish to have their children educated in non-public schools, fine, they can pay for it – all of it – but held to state curricular standards. I agree with my now-deceased wife, a university professor of education and a Lutheran, who told me that if we lived next door to a Lutheran school the four kids would go to public school. We were (and I still am) of the view that mixing with “others” makes for a desirable environment in living in the real world and one also in consonance with John Dewey’s many monographs which emphasized the social component of the educational experience, which is more than just pumping facts into the heads of students since the environment in which such pumping occurs is important as well in fashioning the educational outcome.

    I therefore finally deny both the rationale and likely result that racist parents hold. Brown was rightly decided.

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