Ending Discriminatory Private School Voucher Programs

Bill Title: Renewal of the Broadening Options and Opportunities for Students Today (BOOST) Program

Position: Oppose

Legislative History: Originally enacted in 2016, the BOOST program has been renewed annually ever since.

Take Action!  Call your senators and urge the termination of the BOOST program. You can find their contact information here.

What does this bill do?

The BOOST program provides vouchers for low income students to attend private schools. The voucher program grants awards to place students in eligible schools.

Why is FreeState Justice opposed?

Despite recent, incremental judicial victories for the national LGBT community, harassment and discrimination pervade, especially in education.

LGBTQ youth are an extraordinarily vulnerable population. Based on national studies, 5% to 10% of youth identify as LGBTQ. School environments can be extremely hostile to LGBT students. Approximately 64% of LGBTQ students feel unsafe in their schools because of their sexual orientation, and 44% because of their gender expression. One-third of LGBT students will not finish high school.

FreeState Justice is concerned that the BOOST Program is not protecting LGBTQ students. The assurance language is not strong enough to protect our youth nor is there sufficient oversight of these private schools to ensure they are operating in a non-discriminatory manner. Moreover, gender identity is not included as a protected class in the current law.

Still further, the BOOST program has apparently provided funding for schools that discriminate against LGBTQ students and families. Although any school receiving BOOST funding must agree to not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, in recent months it has come to light that there are BOOST schools which ignore this requirement. For instance, we were very troubled to hear that Trinity Lutheran School, a BOOST-funded school, was discovered in October 2017 to actually have a formal policy that permits it not only refuse or discontinue the enrollment of any student “practicing homosexual lifestyle or alternative gender identity” but also to refuse admission of an applicant or discontinue enrollment of a student “of a same sex marriage or relationship.” Apparently Trinity Lutheran is not alone. It is our understanding that in November of 2017 another BOOST school had been found to have discriminatory language in its student handbook that conflicted with the BOOST law.

No school should be given license by the state to discriminate against its students. We urge the legislature to terminate the BOOST program.

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