By John Dodge
(CBS) — A private, Christian school in Indiana became the focus of the school choice debate this week when U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos refused to say whether she would deny taxpayer funds to schools that discriminate based on sexuality.
During a House Appropriations subcommittee hearing Wednesday, Massachusetts Rep. Katherine Clark asked about Lighthouse Christian Academy in Bloomington. In its school handbook, the school states certain home life “activities”–including “homosexual or bisexual activity” or “practicing alternate gender identity”–could bar a student from admission.
LCA says it “reserves the right, within its sole discretion, to refuse admission or discontinue enrollment of a student” in event a child’s home life violates their standards.
The school received about $650,000 in taxpayer money to help cover some students’ tuition costs. According to the Herald-Times in Bloomington, that’s about a $250,000 increase in voucher money received the previous year.
Clark asked DeVos whether she would in any instance overrule a state-approved voucher program based on discrimination. DeVos was testifying about the Education Department’s budget for the next fiscal year.
DeVos refused to cite any example, saying: “The bottom line is we believe parents are best equipped to make choices for their children. Too many children today are trapped in schools that don’t work for them.”
Clark responded: “I am shocked that you cannot come up with one example of discrimination that you would stand up for students.”
The Lighthouse handbook also states that students could be denied admission for “use of vulgar or profane language” or if there is evidence of “premarital sex, cohabitation or adultery” in the home.
In a statement, the school defended its policies.
“Parents are free to choose which school best comports with their religious convictions. For a real choice and thus real liberty to exist, the government may not impose its own orthodoxy and homogenize all schools to conform to politically correct attitudes and ideologies.
“We see no reason why socio-economic status should bar a child from an educational environment committed to a transcendent moral order.”
Proponents of voucher programs say providing taxpayer money helps students afford tuition for a school of their choosing. Opponents say vouchers siphon off money needed to fund public schools.