Watts Pushes School Vouchers

Published March 1, 1999

Publicly funded vouchers are not a violation of the separation of church and state because the money goes to the parents, not to the school, explained Representative J.C. Watts Jr. (R-Oklahoma), speaking in January to students at the “Christ-centered” Cornerstone School’s Woodlawn campus in Birmingham, Alabama. Comparing a school voucher to a GI Bill scholarship, he said “if the parent chooses to use it here, we ought not to be afraid because they hang a cross in the foyer.”

Watts, a former University of Oklahoma quarterback and the only African-American Republican in Congress, agreed that parental choice in education is not “a panacea,” but “it’s an idea whose time has come.” He said one of the ways to improve public schools is to “force competition, because anything that is bad is going to be threatened by competition.”

The private nondenominational school has 270 students, from pre-school through eighth grade, and is funded through tuition and private financial support.