American private schools are capitalizing on strategically written state tax law and religious fervor to effectively ban students from either being gay or supporting the LGBT movement within their walls. These policies give the school the right to expel any student at any time, if they are suspected of being or sympathizing with LGBT. Anti-gay religious rhetoric is built into the school’s curriculum and there is a zero tolerance policy for any positive LGBT discussion between students.
Gay students are given the unappealing choice of facing humiliation and harassment through expulsion or self-hatred and isolation through staying in the closet. Schools in 12 states – Georgia, Arizona, Pennsylvania, Florida, Rhode Island, Iowa, Indiana, Oklahoma, Virginia, New Hampshire, Louisiana, and Alabama – have received millions of dollars from this so called “neo voucher program” and are continuing to propagate anti-gay codes of conduct. Neo-vouchers allow people receipt of a dollar-for-dollar tax credit for donations towards scholarships that help pay for children to attend private school. Donor’s money immediately goes to Student Scholarship Organizations (SSOs), who in turn redistribute the funds to schools with explicit anti-gay policies.
Georgia is the state with the most radical neo-voucher program on the books. Georgia House Bill 1133 does not require the SSOs to keep track of who is making the donations or what their family income is. An amendment in 2011 criminalized the disclosure of any personal information about the donors, including but not limited to: how much they donate, how frequently they donate, or which schools receive the donations. These laws make it nearly imposiible to determine where the money is coming from and where it is going. The only thing that is certain is that the money makes a big difference. More than $230 million dollars in tax credits have made it to SSOs in Georgia; 115 of SSO affiliated schools in Georgia have explicit anti-gay policies. As stated, Pennsylvania is also home to a neo-voucher program.
In Pennsylvania, Opportunity Scholarship Organizations (OSO) give donors the same tax credit deal as other states. Businesses can receive up to 75% of their contribution to an OSO with a maximum of $400,000 a year; the amount can be increased to 90% if the business agrees to pay the same amount for 2 consecutive years. (Pennsylvania Department of Community & Economic Development website). On a list of over 70 schools, Pennsylvania’s approved OSO list has numerous religiously affiliated OSOs that explicitly forbid homosexuality. Many of the schools on this list have rules, which allow the school to expel the child for immorality and/or denying, rejecting, or diverting from the will of god or his teachings. Considering how the tax structure is set up, both families and businesses in Pennsylvania have an easy and legal way to propagate anti-gay schools through manipulation of public funds. Remember of course, this practice is only legal because the laws were written this way on purpose. For a full list of approved OSOs in Pennsylvania: http://www.newpa.com/webfm_send/3619