Vouchers Fund Discriminatory Private Schools

Vouchers Fund Discriminatory Private Schools

Recently, an Arizona Christian school fired a teacher for speaking out against discrimination towards LGBTQ students. The school is now embroiled in a lawsuit, but state-funded ESA voucher dollars continue to flow to the school, underscoring the fact that ESA vouchers are resulting in state-sanctioned and state-funded discrimination.

Teacher Sues Over Private School Discrimination 

Up until last year, Adam McDorman was an English teacher at Valley Christian High School in Chandler. A recent federal lawsuit alleges he was wrongfully terminated days after speaking out about the school’s discrimination against LGBTQ students based on his own tolerant religious beliefs. The complaint lays bare the school’s pervasive anti-LGBTQ culture and systemic harassment of staff and students with more inclusive views.

McDornan requested that a student who’d recently come out as pansexual should have their parents present when Principal LeSage met with them regarding their sexual orientation; instead, the principal held a meeting with the student unknown to the parents, calling the child “sinful” and telling them “same-sex relations are an abomination to God,” according to the lawsuit. 

State-Funded Discrimination Via ESA Vouchers 

Valley Christian Schools (VCS) operates three schools in the East Valley, and is an approved vendor for Arizona’s ESA voucher program, which siphons nearly $500 million every year from local public schools to subsidize private school tuition and homeschooling. The amount of taxpayer dollars flowing to VCS is unavailable, as this data is not publicly tracked by the ESA program. VCS enrolls over 900 students and calls itself Arizona’s “fastest-growing Christian school.”

Valley Christian Principal Josh LeSage told staff in a meeting that all teachers and staff who were supportive of LGBTQ students were “like a cancer that needed to be removed from VCS” and called the idea that LGBTQ persons could be Christians a “hideous lie” and “so offensive.”

Many private schools that are accepting untold millions in taxpayer-funded ESA vouchers are unapologetic regarding their discriminatory views on gender and sexuality, and explicitly exclude students, families and staff who will not attest to statements of faith that align with these discriminatory viewpoints. 

On its website, VCS states in its “Foundational Positions” that “rejection of one’s biological gender is a rejection of the image of God within that person” and calls homosexuality a form of “sexual immorality” that is “sinful and offensive to God” and will likely result in a student’s expulsion.

Voucher-Funded MAGA Academies Starting in AZ

Charlie Kirk’s Turning Point Academy, housed within Dream City Church which promotes Turning Point’s radical, extremist, MAGA agenda in Scottsdale and Glendale, has a similar statement on its website. All students, families, and staff must attest to this Statement of Faith, which states there are only two genders and that “rejection of one’s biological sex is a rejection of the image of God within that person.” The statement also says that “any form of sexual immorality…  including homosexual behavior” is sinful and offensive to God. Dream City Christian School is an approved ESA voucher recipient; in order to spend taxpayer-funded ESA voucher monies on Turning Point School school tuition, parents must agree that their children will be taught these tenets. 

AZ Anti-LGBTQ Schools Receiving Public Taxpayer Dollars

In Yuma, the Freedom Christian Academy (also an approved ESA voucher recipient) states in its handbook that “homosexuality, lesbianism, bisexuality, bestiality, incest, fornication, adultery and pornography are sinful perversions of God’s gift of sex. We believe that God disapproves of and forbids any attempt to alter one’s gender by surgery or appearance.” Further, the handbook states “if parents disagree or oppose any of the above beliefs, it would be advisable for them to choose another school… The school reserves the right to refuse admission of an applicant or to discontinue enrollment of a student if the atmosphere or conduct within a particular home or the activities of the student are counter to or are in opposition to the biblical lifestyle taught at Freedom Baptist Church.”

In Glendale, the Vision Christian Academy, an approved ESA voucher recipient, says on their website they “reject and refuse to accommodate any so-called trans-gender or otherwise unscriptural philosophy or behavior.” According to their site, all faculty members are born-again Christians; students who “promote religious doctrines in school which are contrary to those we believe” will be expelled.

Anti-LGBTQ Discrimination Common in Voucher Schools Across US

Florida directs well over $100 million in taxpayer-funded voucher monies to religious private schools that discriminate against LGBTQ students. According to this article, over 14 percent of Florida’s nearly 147,000 voucher students attended private schools where homosexuality was condemned or, at a minimum, unwelcome. 

According to a recent GLSEN issue brief on private school voucher programs, private religious schools are often where LGBTQ+ students face the most significant challenges. 

  • LGBTQ+ students attending private religious schools experience more discrimination than LGBTQ+ students at any other type of school, and have the least access to the essential supports for their well-being and academic achievement. 
  • The majority of private schools benefiting from voucher programs are also the school settings where LGBTQ+ students are the least likely to be able to learn and thrive.

According to the brief, private religious schools that receive millions in taxpayer dollars openly operate so-called counseling programs for LGBTQ+ students, extremely similar to discredited and damaging “conversion therapy.”

  • At least 14% of surveyed religious schools actively discriminate against LGBTQ+ students and staff. 
  • At least 5% of these schools had explicit policies against hiring or retaining LGBTQ+ staff.
  • In Florida, at least 10% of private schools with voucher programs had zero tolerance policies for LGBTQ+ students, and more than 30% of schools implemented curriculum that denigrated LGBTQ+ students.

With the Arizona Legislature set to begin their next session on January 9, Governor-elect Hobbs has veto power over any further ESA voucher expansion bills. We urge the legislature to swiftly act to protect students from discrimination with regards to the voucher program. 

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