Good morning. I am Rabbi Jack Moline, Vice-chair of The Interfaith Alliance, a coalition of leadership from the many and diverse faith communities across this country. I am here to add our voices to those opposed to private school vouchers for the District of Columbia, just as we oppose such vouchers in general. We are in good company – Congress itself has rejected vouchers consistently for the entire country.
It is not my purpose to stand here and wave holy scriptures about how the world’s religious traditions, which generally agree on very little, are unanimous in their rejection of school vouchers. That would be nonsense, just as it would be ridiculous to claim that any faith tradition supports vouchers with scriptural underpinning.
However, I will affirm that the dignity of every human being is central to the faith of the members of The Interfaith Alliance. A voucher system that allows certain students with certain talents to take resources from other students who do not share those talents creates a school system that affirms some children are created more equal than others.
I recognize a certain irony in my advocacy today. My children, in fact most children in my community, have the benefit of well-funded public schools, excellent teachers and options for alternative and supplemental schooling. The advocates of vouchers plaintively plead only for the same chance for their children – to rise above the underfunded, understaffed and limited schools that may be holding them back. And certainly, there is no quick fix to help this particular child, this particular moment.
A redoubled effort by Federal and local jurisdictions to raise the level of funding for public schools, including charter schools and transformation schools, can lift entire communities together, not just the selected few. The reduction of funds to public schools means fewer teachers, lower pay, less diversity, and a peer group of children who will know that they are the abandoned hope of society. We fought hard for laws in this country that prohibit forcing some people to sit in the back of the bus. Well, my friends, bleeding our public schools for the benefit of the few means that many of our precious children will not even get on the bus. The result will be those children left behind.
People of faith, people of conscience, cannot stand by and allow society to do violence to human dignity by declaring the value of one child’s future to be greater than another’s. And we the people of the United States must demand that our government recommit to forming a more perfect union, not to segment our society by parceling out scarce educational resources and daring parents to fend for themselves.
The investment in public education has enabled generations of Americans to share in the American dream. I am proud to pay the taxes that enable another generation to share in that dream. Let us really have no child left behind. Let us keep public funding in public education.