The Daily Caller News Foundation – Reagan Reese on April 18, 2023
While discussing civil rights laws, a Democrat witness said it is harder to protect students if they leave the public school system and go to a private or religious institution, according to a Tuesday Education and Workforce Committee hearing.
During a hearing on school choice, Republican Oregon Rep. Suzanne Bonamici asked how students and families may be affected by private and religious schools, who may not be subjected to federal civil rights laws. Dr. Derek Black, a professor of law at the University of South Carolina and the Democrat witness at the hearing, said that students and families who choose to attend private and religious schools are harder to protect from discrimination.
“For decades, civil rights laws – Title IX, IDEA [Individuals with Disabilities Education Act], ESEA [Every Student Succeeds Act] – those have significantly decreased discrimination and contributed to the goal of providing all students with the opportunity to get a high-quality education,” Bonamici said. “So how can absolving schools, especially private and religious schools, from following civil rights laws affect students and families who may choose a private school as a part of a choice program?”
“As one of my colleagues once said, ‘the further children get away from public schools the less we have the capacity to protect them,’” Black responded.
Throughout the country red state lawmakers are pushing for school choice legislation that would provide students with taxpayer funds to pay for their education outside of the public school system; in Arkansas, by the 2025-2026 school year all students will be eligible for annual vouchers up to $7,413 to pay for education related expenses. Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a law in March establishing an Education Savings Accounts (ESA) program under which every family is eligible to receive up to $8,000 annually to cover education expenses outside of the public school system.
“As you pointed out, states consistently refuse to apply anti-discrimination standards in their private school programs,” Black said. “In fact, when we have hearings like this and people insist there must be accountability, there must be anti-discrimination protections, religion, gender, sex, there is almost always a refusal to include those provisions in those programs so students are left to a market that can deal with them instead of students dealing with the market.”
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