As schools opened this fall, issues related to moral values and to church and state emerged in several states.
• The first statewide voucher program began Aug. 16 in Florida at four Roman Catholic and one nonreligious private school. Students in schools deemed to be "failing" are eligible for vouchers of up to $3,389 annually. The program was criticized as a separation of church and state violation by the NAACP, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and others.
• Nearly 4,000 students began attending 56 (mostly religious) elementary schools in Cleveland's 4-year-old voucher program, which a federal judge suspended, then partially reinstated, in August. Earlier the state supreme court ruled the program unconstitutional because it was created as an amendment to the state budget rather than as a separate bill.
"We don't have a position on vouchers," said John Scibilia, ELCA director for schools. "We encourage congregations to discuss this issue with respect to a quality education for every child. Education is a responsibility of individual states and every voucher program is different. If a voucher or other choice program comes out that totally meets the needs of those in greatest economic need, we'd need to look seriously at the program on its own merits."
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