Creationists who control the Texas State Board of Education aren’t focused just on pushing religion-based arguments in public school science classes. On Friday they voted to allow a Christian school to convert into a publicly funded charter school.
The full board voted unanimously to grant charters to six schools. The board’s seven creationist Republicans and a Democrat who often votes with that bloc, Rick Agosto of San Antonio, pushed through approval for two others, including TLC Academy of San Angelo. Both schools received lower evaluations than other applicants that did not get approval from the board. Other board members also raised questions about financial issues at TLC. Even so, the creationist bloc pushed for and got approval.
TLC’s case is only the latest in a growing trend of religious schools converting into taxpayer-funded public charter schools. TLC’s enrollment application currently asks what church the student’s family attends, whether both parents are Christians, whether the student believes in Jesus and how often the family attends church. Of course, the school will no longer be able to ask such questions as a public charter school. In addition, it must agree to use a secular curriculum, and any religious instruction can occur only before or after school hours (presumably on a voluntary basis for students). But we have some questions:
1. Why did TLC and another applicant get approval over others with better evaluations?
2. Why would a Christian school want to surrender its unique role as a religious educator to become a public charter school? Does it really want to give up that role?
3. Will religious instruction (presumably outside of school hours) be truly voluntary for students? With the state having done such a poor job overseeing many other charter schools plagued by poor academic performance and gross financial mismanagement, who will be monitoring whether formerly religious schools are offering a truly secular curriculum?
There’s nothing at all wrong with parents choosing to educate their children at a religious school. But taxpayers have a right to insist that the public schools they fund not promote religious beliefs they might not share. Will that happen as TLC and other religious schools line up at the public trough as new charter schools?