American Center for Law and Justice Promotes ‘School Choice’ Initiative as a Solution for Racial Inequality

Jay Sekulow speaking at an event in Washington, D.C. Image by Gage Skidmore

The American Center for Law and Justice launched a new “school choice” initiative Monday with a blog post and a promotional push on ACLJ’s “Sekulow Live” broadcast. The ACLJ is trying to position school choice as one answer to the racial inequality on display with recent high-profile cases of police violence.

ACLJ has not yet published detailed information about the policies it will be urging states to adopt to maximize “choice” in education. Yet, the ACLJ is collecting signatures on a petition for its initiative and says it will be promoting model state legislation to push school vouchers, which have long been a goal of religious-right groups:

We are drafting model state legislation to ensure that every child has equality of opportunity in education, including school vouchers. We’ve filed briefs at the Supreme Court to defend state school choice laws to equally apply to religious education. And we’re aggressively working on Capitol Hill to ensure that federal funding in education allows maximum choice for maximum results.

More from the ACLJ’s website:

While the ACLJ believes that expanding school choice is largely a function of state and local law, it is possible for the federal government to have a significant role that includes providing funding for pilot programs throughout the nation.

The ACLJ intends to expand its footprint in this arena by taking principled legal action where appropriate, issuing policy reports based on empirical data that will demolish the fuzzy data offered by vouchers’ opponents, and contesting specious arguments against vouchers and school choice.

As Right Wing Watch has reported, advocates for unpopular programs like school vouchers have adopted a public relations and political organizing strategy to blur distinctions between different approaches to “school choice” in order to build more support for vouchers and federal funding for religious schools and homeschooling.

Like other religious-right legal groups, the ACLJ seeks to undermine church-state separation, and it has filed an amicus brief urging the Supreme Court to overturn all state restrictions on the use of public funds for religious schools.

ACLJ will likely find support for its initiative from the Trump administration. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is taking advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic to push her long-term goal of diverting public education funds into homeschooling and religious schools.

When President Donald Trump nominated DeVos, with her long record of advocacy for privatization of public education, People For the American Way called it “a new high-water mark in the right wing’s long war on public education.” (RWW is a project of PFAW.)

The ACLJ was founded by televangelist Pat Robertson to be a religious-right answer to the American Civil Liberties Union. It has promoted right-wing campaigns  and false claims and has overseas affiliates that support anti-LGBTQ policies and other efforts.

The ACLJ is run by Trump attorney Jay Sekulow and his son Jordan. The organization has been the subject of multiple journalism investigations into the ways the Sekulow family have been enriched through their legal advocacy. Jay and Jordan Sekulow were also members of Trump’s impeachment legal team.