Post submitted by David Wexelblat, HRC law fellow
According to a recent analysis by the Southern Education Foundation, over the last four years, more than $170 million of taxpayer funds has been spent on scholarships to send students to private schools. The SEF report identifies over 115 schools participating in the program that expressly discriminate against LGBT students. While school policies vary widely, the report notes several schools that will expel a student for simply acknowledging their LGBT identity.
The Georgia program, like those in ten other states, uses tax dollars to pay for student tuitions at private schools. Unlike traditional “voucher” programs, the Georgia state model provides tax credits for donations to non-profit organizations that provide scholarship funds to low-income students.
Because school funding remains in private hands, the recipients are not subject to anti-discrimination policies promulgated by federal or state Departments of Education. Yet the tax credits come from the general fund, meaning that taxpayers are still indirectly funding discrimination.
This Georgia state program is only one example of the state-funded discrimination that is happening around the country today. For example, taxpayer dollars continue to fund litigation in support of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). The House GOP leadership recently increased this funding to $3 million. In many cases, though such funding is not as obvious. For example, the Fort Bragg Officer’s Spouse’s Club recently in the news because of its denial of membership to a same-sex spouse of a servicemember, meets in government facilities and is promoted by the U.S. military. Although the club is private, this public support means that your tax dollars support it.
These are just some of the ways in which taxpayer money is being used to support programs that discriminate against the LGBT community. Legislation and policies prohibiting this discrimination are desperately needed across the country—particularly when these programs directly affect the opportunities and well being of our youth.