The DC voucher language undermines the separation of church and state and impermissibly limits voucher options to private schools

The DC voucher language explicitly permits voucher funds to be used for sectarian educational purposes and expressly permits private schools accepting voucher students to discriminate based on religion. Moreover, unlike Milwaukee’s voucher program, the DC voucher bill does not allow students to opt out of religious activities. Indeed, experience suggests that even where there are such prohibitions, schools defy them outright.

Furthermore, in Zelman, the Court strongly suggests that a constitutional voucher program must not only offer parents true choice between religious and non-religious options, but also between public and private options. In justifying the constitutionality of the Cleveland program, the Court explicitly noted that the program permits “a wide spectrum of individuals, …to exercise genuine choice among options public and private, secular and religious, …[and] is therefore a program of true private choice.” The DC voucher bill does not provide public and secular choices. Nor does it aim to assist students with a variety of options. The only option it provides is for the student to attend a private elementary or secondary school-type program.

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