Magazine article Church & State

In the Capital

Magazine article Church & State

In the Capital

Article excerpt

School Voucher Battle Expected In U.S. Congress

When Congress resumes work this month, religious school voucher subsidies are expected to be near the top of the agenda.

The effort to advance vouchers is likely to start with Senate consideration of a bill called "Academic Achievement for All" (dubbed "Straight A's"). The measure would create a pilot program giving 10 states unprecedented flexibility in their decisions on how to spend federal education funds. Church-state separationists are concerned, however, that if the scheme becomes law, "Straight A's" could open the door to the creation of voucher programs that aid church schools.

The House of Representatives passed the legislation (H.R. 2300) on a 213-208 vote Oct. 21. The Senate is considering its own version of the bill (S. 1266) in the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.

Julie Segal, legislative counsel for Americans United for Separation of Church and State, expects the upcoming session of Congress to be a busy one for those concerned with church-state separation.

"Bills such as `Straight A's' are part of an election-year strategy for some members of Congress," Segal said. "They don't have any real education reform ideas to take to the voters, so they will be pushing vouchers."

Noting the flurry of voucher activity in Congress since 1997, Segal added, "If the last few years are any indication, this year looks like it will be an uphill fight for voucher opponents."

Catholic Bishops Tighten Controls Over Church Colleges

The Roman Catholic bishops in the United States have sparked a major controversy by approving a plan to exercise greater control over the nation's 230 Catholic colleges and universities. …

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