To the Editor:
You provided excellent coverage of the state ballot measures before voters this past Nov. 2. You reported South Dakota’s referendum defeat of Amendment B, which would have authorized some limited forms of tax aid for faith-based schools. But there is more to the story (“Table: Ballot Measures,” Nov. 10, 2004).
The measure failed by 53 percent to 47 percent and was rejected in 56 of the state’s 66 counties. It lost by 51 percent to 49 percent in the state’s two largest cities, and by 54 percent to 46 percent in small towns and rural areas. In the dozen counties in which President Bush received his highest vote, 59.4 percent rejected the amendment. In Lawrence County, which last voted for a Democrat for president in 1916, 57 percent turned the measure down. In the three counties with the highest nonpublic school enrollment (Brule, 20 percent; Hand, 16 percent; Potter, 15 percent), the amendment went down 61 percent, 62 percent, and 63 percent, respectively.
The South Dakota referendum means that between 1966 and 2004, statewide electorates in 26 referendum elections from coast to coast defeated attempts to authorize tax aid to faith-based and other private schools, through vouchers or other methods, and did so by an average ratio of 2-to-1.
It should be clear by now that Americans do not want their tax dollars going to nonpublic schools, which tend to discriminate in admissions and hiring and to be pervasively sectarian. Politicians in Washington and state capitals should move away from this loser idea and concentrate on providing more adequate and more equitably distributed support for our indispensable public schools.
Americans for Religious Liberty
A version of this article appeared in the November 24, 2004 edition of Education Week as S.D. Is Latest to Reject Aid for Private Schools