by Patrick Devlin
Reporter Stephanie Simon writing for Politico has reported on her findings after reviewing government subsidies granted to parents who choose to abandon public education and instead send their school age children to private schools, including hundreds of theological schools. Simon reports that in 2014 US taxpayers will pay nearly $1 billion to subsidize the private education, and in many cases this means the religious education and indoctrination, of grammar and secondary school children across America by providing publically paid for “vouchers” to their parents.
The movement to expand the subsidization of private school religious indoctrination has been pushed by evangelical politicians who knowingly misrepresent their support of evangelical indoctrination by suggesting that they are simply lending a hand to parents who want to save their children from the terror of “failing public schools”, when their efforts are intended to fund ecumenical education at the expense of all Americans and to the impoverishment of the country’s public school systems.
While it is true that some political supporters of the concept of funding private schooling with US tax dollars are inspired by their support for the get-rich-quick-with-guaranteed-government-income-streams-and-bust-unions-at-the-same-time schemes also known as “charter schools” (Democratic mayor of blue state Chicago Rahm Emmanuel is a big supporter of the charter school projects that enrich private companies with tax dollars that otherwise would be spent on public schools), Simon focused her investigation on Christian institutions that that receive government dollars to teach American children and some of the educational (sic) materials that are used in in such theological schools. What Simon found in her review is that the materials and course outlines of publically funded Christian learning centers “nurture disdain of the secular world, distrust of momentous discoveries and hostility toward mainstream scientists.”
Simon reports that one set of Christian textbooks that is widely used in private ecumenical schools refers to the theory of evolution as “a wicked and vain philosophy” and another is derisive of “modern math theories.” Simon goes on to report that, while most Americans may be aware that Abrahamic religious folklore is taught alongside the theory of evolution in Christian academy biology courses, many are not aware that Christian theological doctrine is infused through all course study in such schools. Simon advises that she found that math instructors take time away from teaching math and teach “biblical numbers” (presumably studying the biblical Book of Numbers) and in language classes students are taught spelling and language skills using example sentences such as; “Many scientists today are Creationists.”
Simon reports that a private school in Pennsylvania that is subsidized with taxpayer dollars advises potential students and their parents that they teach their students that their “understanding is not complete until we filter it through God’s word,” so that students will be able to “disprove the fake and vain philosophies of the world,” and a private Christian school in Georgia uses science classes to train students on how they can refute and argue against established scientific theories.
Furthermore, religious schools are not required to ensure that their curricula conforms with the educational standards that states set for their public grammar and secondary schools and religious schools are often exempted from state school testing regimes that public schools must adhere to.
Fourteen states currently allow religious parents to remove their children and their tax dollar support from public school systems and 26 additional states are in the process of legislating voucher programs. In some states, such as Florida, the laws that legalized religious school vouchering are written to allow for the expansion of the program, allowing for exponential growth of the voucher program with no additional legislative debate. Other states, such as Arizona, have developed programs where individual bank accounts are created that hold state funds so individual parents can use the tax dollars as they see fit for purchasing religious “textbooks” and paying for religious tutors. The Arizona Supreme Court has already determined that the private bank accounts holding public tax dollars arrangement is constitutional. Arizona’s scheme provides up to $13,000 in public tax dollars directly to religious parents each year.
Deceptive self-proclaimed Christian and cynical and scheming federal lawmakers characterize their undying support of vouchering as giving parents the opportunity to exit failing public schools, while knowing full well that the majority of the private schools that receive taxpayer funding through state vouchering programs teach Evangelical Christian infused course work. Simon reports that “faith-based schools consistently account for at least 70 percent, and sometimes far more, of the private schools receiving public subsidies.” Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN, an elder of his Presbyterian congregation) has developed a plan to consolidate $24 billion in federal education monies to fund state voucher programg, and Eric Cantor (R-VA, the nation’s only Jewish Republican member of Congress) exclaims that it is “his personal goal that in 10 years, every child in America will have education opportunity through school choice no matter where they live.”
Not only does vouchering result in a fiscal drain on public school systems’ coffers, but it is also ushering in the establishment of class based schooling in America. Indianan families that earn up to $88,000 per year are eligible to use school vouchers and Floridians whose families make up to $100,000 per year can also apply for school vouchers, although in both states there are some limited restrictions for more wealthy families. Even so, the result of these programs is that wealthy families’ choosing to abandon the common public project of educating our country’s children is being subsidized by tax dollars that every family pays.
“Taxpayer dollars are ending up in the coffers of religious schools,” ACLU senior staff attorney Heather Weaver told reporter Simon, “and they use that money to discriminate and indoctrinate.”