Chris­tian school at cen­ter of LGBT voucher de­bate

The Washington Times Daily - - NATION - BY BRIAN SLODYSKO AND MARIA DANILOVA

BLOOM­ING­TON, IND. | The Light­house Chris­tian Academy prom­ises to pro­vide an ex­em­plary ed­u­ca­tion, a car­ing at­mos­phere and ser­vice to God — but not for ev­ery­one.

The school says in its ad­mis­sions brochure that it re­serves the right to deny ad­mis­sion to LGBT stu­dents be­cause their life­style is pro­hib­ited by the Bi­ble.

As the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion seeks to ex­pand school choice na­tion­wide, the academy was thrust into the na­tional spot­light last month as part of a heated de­bate over whether schools that re­ceive money from tax­payer­funded vouch­ers can dis­crim­i­nate against cer­tain groups of stu­dents, such as LGBT chil­dren or stu­dents with dis­abil­i­ties.

Light­house of­fi­cials say they’ve never turned any­one away based on sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion. But at a con­gres­sional hear­ing, Se­nate Democrats cited it as an ex­am­ple of a school that dis­crim­i­nates against LGBT stu­dents.

A Light­house brochure says the Bi­ble does not al­low ho­mo­sex­ual, bi­sex­ual or “any form of sex­ual im­moral­ity” and if a stu­dent’s “home life” vi­o­lates bib­li­cal rules, the school can deny them ad­mis­sion or ex­pel them.

Pressed on the is­sue, Ed­u­ca­tion Secretary Betsy DeVos, an ar­dent sup­porter of school choice, told the Se­nate com­mit­tee that dis­crim­i­na­tion is wrong, but that it was up to Congress and the courts, not her depart­ment, to in­ter­vene.

Founded in the early 1990s by a tight-knit group of fam­i­lies who wanted an af­ford­able Chris­tian ed­u­ca­tion for their chil­dren, the academy is now an aca­dem­i­cally suc­cess­ful K-12 school serv­ing 300 chil­dren in the Bloom­ing­ton area. About half re­ceive vouch­ers to help pay an an­nual tu­ition that ranges from $4,500 to $6,000 de­pend­ing on a stu­dent’s grade.

This year, Light­house re­ceived over $665,000 in state funds to en­roll 152 stu­dents.

Mrs. DeVos and the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion are strong pro­po­nents of giv­ing states a greater role in ed­u­ca­tion. Ear­lier this year, the ad­min­is­tra­tion re­scinded for­mer Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s guid­ance that in­structed to schools to let stu­dents use school re­strooms in ac­cor­dance with the gen­der they iden­tify with, not their sex at birth. The move sparked crit­i­cism from the civil rights com­mu­nity.

The ad­min­is­tra­tion is look­ing at tax­payer-funded vouch­ers as a way to ex­pand school choice na­tion­wide, but it has not yet come out with a spe­cific plan on how to do it.

In­di­ana is one of 30 states that use pub­lic money for school choice pro­grams, in­clud­ing vouch­ers, ed­u­ca­tional sav­ings ac­counts and tax-credit scholarships. The Dis­trict of Columbia has the coun­try’s only fed­er­ally funded voucher pro­gram. All told, some 450,000 stu­dents par­tic­i­pate na­tion­ally.

In a study last year, In­di­ana Univer­sity pro­fes­sor Suzanne Eckes found that none of the states with voucher pro­grams pro­hibits dis­crim­i­na­tion against LGBT stu­dents.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

In its brochure, the Light­house Chris­tian Academy says its re­serves the right to deny LGBT stu­dents ad­mis­sion.

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