The Danger Private School Voucher Programs Pose to Civil Rights in the U.S

Only 3 percent of the 62 programs analyzed provided state-level anti-discrimination protections for all categories

The Danger Private School Voucher Programs Pose to Civil Rights in the U.S

A group of students stands outside their school in Malden, Massachusetts, May 2017 | Getty/Jonathan Wiggs

Washington, D.C. — Today, the Center for American Progress released a new issue brief looking at anti-discrimination protections for students attending private schools and students participating in voucher programs that provide public funding to private schools through programs such as traditional private school vouchers, education savings accounts, and tax credit scholarships. These protections ensure that students have avenues of recourse when they experience discrimination and protect them from being pushed out of school due to their identity. The lack of protections make students of color, students with disabilities, LGBTQ students, and students of certain religious groups vulnerable to discrimination.

The report comes amid a major campaign being championed by U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos that would create a federally funded private school voucher program—a significant expansion beyond the 29 states that currently have such programs—and efforts in state legislatures to establish or expand private school voucher programs.

Key findings from the report include:

  • Just 42 percent of programs analyzed include state-specific statutory protections. Another 42 percent of programs only incorporate federal anti-discrimination statutes, which are attached to receipt of federal funding. Sixteen percent have no protections at all.

  • Only 3 percent of the 62 programs analyzed provided state-level anti-discrimination protections for all categories: sex, race, disability, religion, sexual orientation, and gender identity.

  • Eighteen percent of programs provide anti-discrimination protections for sex; 24 percent of programs provide it for religion; 42 percent of programs provide it for race; 11 percent of programs provide anti-discrimination protections for sexual orientation; and 5 percent of programs provide it for gender identity.

“No students’ civil rights should be in question because of the type of school they attend,” said Bayliss Fiddiman, senior policy analyst for K-12 education at CAP. “This report finds that an overwhelming majority of private schools, including programs that receive public funding through voucher programs, lack comprehensive federal and state anti-discrimination protections.”

Please click here to read “The Danger Private School Voucher Programs Pose to Civil Rights” by Bayliss Fiddiman and Jessica Yin.