Today’s New York Times features the Georgia tax credit-funded voucher program in a piece called, “Backed by State Money, Georgia Scholarships Go To Schools Barring Gays.” It’s based on a report done by Steve Suitts of the Southern Education Foundation. (Steve did a very important study that the Times and we wrote about last spring identifying problems with the Georgia voucher program.)
The new report documents that voucher schools discriminating against gays:
“We are circumventing our own public policy with public money,” said State Representative Stacey Abrams, the leader of the Democratic minority in the House. “In our public schools, we do not disallow a child from attending on the basis of their sexual orientation.”
But the larger problem, which the Georgia program shares with its sister program in New Hampshire, is a general lack of accountability. While public schools are held to high standards, private schools supported with state money are held to no standards. As a result, they may practice discrimination as documented in this new report or they may have poor academic standards and teach creationist curricula, as many Georgia and New Hampshire Christian schools do.
The schools vigorously defend their independence:
“You can be a Jewish school. You can be a Muslim school. It’s the same as a Catholic school or if I wanted to go to an all-girls school or a homosexual school,” said Claudia Hunt, who runs admissions for the Providence Christian Academy, a kindergarten-through-12th-grade school in Lilburn[GA].
“That is why we are independent schools,” she said. “We all have different missions.”
Of course, the problem isn’t the mission, it’s asking for public money to pay for it.