Thanks to the N.C. General Assembly, Word of God Christian Academy in Raleigh is due to receive $583,800 of your tax dollars this academic year. That money was supposed to be used for public schools. Greensboro Islamic Academy is also due to receive $546,000 that was intended for public schools.
These are but a few examples of public money being used to fund religious instruction in private schools all over our state by way of North Carolina’s School Opportunity Scholarships, otherwise known as the voucher program.
Now private and parochial schools, which have served children and families for years without government help, are eligible to receive vouchers to help defray the cost of tuition. Many of these religious schools boast about their ability to teach religious doctrine.
What is truly frightening about these schools now eligible to receive tax dollars is that they are exempt from the same level of scrutiny as public schools. Unlike public or even charter schools, these nonpublic schools are subjected to minimal accountability and oversight. What’s worse, they are free from reporting the use of corporal punishment and are not bound by local ordinances that may have banned its use.
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Almost every school district in North Carolina has passed ordinances banning corporal punishment on school grounds. The state requires any school still using this arcane method to follow strict reporting guidelines. In 2014, only five counties made reports. These protections were put in place because children are vulnerable. Yet, the North Carolina General Assembly does not think that children in parochial schools need protecting.
I believe parents should be able to choose to send their children to parochial schools if they want. I believe parents have the right to indoctrinate their children into any religious belief they choose. But my tax dollars should not be used to promote someone else’s religious beliefs. I happily pay my taxes to promote the common good, and I want my locally elected officials to oversee what happens in the schools my tax dollars support.
That means stopping the proposed budget for the voucher program expansion from $11 million to $27 million in the next two years.
The fact is, a majority of North Carolinians do not want their tax dollars used for religious instruction, they do not want children in unaccountable schools and we do not want to see our public schools robbed of the funds intended for them. The so-called Opportunity Scholarships must be stopped.
Allison Mahaley is president of Orange Durham Chapter of Americans United,