Later this morning we’ll be at the state Senate Committee on Education hearing that will take up school vouchers. As we told you yesterday — and as we’ll be telling the committee today — vouchers are always a bad idea. But at time when school district budgets have been slashed, a scheme that drains even more funds from public schools is an even worse idea.
Today we bring you two critiques of vouchers.
The first is from Jim Dugan, an education activist in Louisiana who has been monitoring that state’s controversial voucher program approved earlier this year. Mr. Dugan has given us permission to disseminate his preliminary analysis of the church-state issues already cropping up in Louisiana’s experiment with vouchers. In that report, he provides concrete examples of state funding for schools that:
1. Teach religious doctrine throughout the curriculum, rather than just in specific courses on
2. Weaken or omit core subject content normally covered in public schools.
3. Have admissions policies that discriminate in ways that public schools would not permit.
It’s like looking into a crystal ball and seeing what we could expect here, should Texas implement a voucher program. The following example from a life science textbook produced by Bob Jones University — which could now be paid for with Louisiana state-budget dollars — should be especially popular with TFN Insider readers:
“Satan wants people to believe in evolution. This is probably the main reason that evolution is so popular. Satan is a deceiver (John 8:44), and he wants people to believe that God’s Word is not true. He keeps the belief in evolution popular so he can use it to lead people away from God.”
It is, of course, perfectly legal for a private religious school to teach religious doctrines like this — our constitutional protections for religious liberty in this country ensure that right. But the other side of that coin is that public dollars should not fund programs that promote — or disparage — religion. Mr. Dugan’s report makes it clear that the Louisiana program is already in violation of that principal.
The other analysis come from our friend Edd Doerr, president of Americans for Religious Liberty. Edd’s piece is as comprehensive a summary as you’ll ever find of the history of the voucher movement in this country. Edd introduces his paper below and you can download it here.
“The Great School Voucher Fraud”
Diversion of public funds to private schools through school vouchers or tuition tax credits (tax code vouchers) poses serious threats to both public education and our core American value of religious freedom. Since 2011 conservative legislatures and governors in Indiana and Louisiana have enacted school voucher plans surpassing anything previously passed in any state. Coupled with the slashing of public school budgets, increasing class sizes, teacher layoffs, elimination of important school programs, and relentless media and political attacks on public education and teachers, the school voucher drive has the potential to do untold harm to basic American institutions.
Edd Doerr’s “The Great School Voucher Fraud” position paper exhaustively examines all of the many arguments against school voucher plans. Especially useful is his analysis of the 27 statewide referendum elections in which tens of millions of voters from coast to coast have rejected vouchers or their variants by superlandslide margins.
Doerr, president of Americans for Religious Liberty and a former public school teacher (history, government, Spanish), has been a full-time activist for public education, religious freedom and church-state separation for over 45 years.