Sunday, June 19, 2011

School Vouchers & "Capacity"

by Edd Doerr

Is there a "capacity issue" if school voucher and/or tuition tax credit programs expand, as many Republican governors and legislators intend? Will finding "physical space" for voucher schools be a problem? These questions were asked in an article in the June 15 issue of Education Week. And the answer to both questions is not only a loud, resonating NO but an emphatic HELL NO.

And why, you might ask, is that? Simply this two part response. The decline in Catholic school enrollment from 5.5 million students in 1965 to about two million today means that there is classroom space for a huge number of voucher schools. And, as the growth in nonpublic school enrollment in recent years has been largely in conservative Protestant schools, please note that there are literally tens of thousands of religious education facilities in conservative churches nationwide used only on Sunday mornings that could easily and inexpensively be adapted for full time use as classrooms for millions of K-12 students in voucher programs.

Make no mistake, if the public funds spigot is opened wide for vouchers and tax credits (i.e. tax code vouchers), churches will be utilized to the maximum for new private schools, schools that will inevitably be filled with kids sorted primarily by religious identification and secondarily by ideology, ethnicity, and degree of special need. When and if this happens, public education will shrink to serving mainly the poor and disadvantaged, the teaching profession will degenerate to s shadow of its former status, teachers will be sorted by religious orientation, and education in America will sink to something worse than mere mediocrity.

Since over 80% of nonpublic school enrollment is in faith-based schools, the voucherization of education will mean that nearly all of the kids in these schools will be subjected to systematic indoctrination inimical to women's rights and denied access to the kind of comprehensive sexuality education that lowers teen pregnancy rates. The kids in the conservative Protestant (i.e. fundamentalist) schools will get indoctrinated in the areas of science, history and literature with the ideas pushed by pseudohistorian David Barton and the likes of Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell and Tim and Beverly LaHaye.

If you think I exaggerate, read Albert Menendez' book Visions of Reality: What Fundamentalist Schools Teach (Prometheus Books, and available from me at Box 6656, Silver Spring, MD 20916 for $8) or Frances R.A. Paterson's book Democracy and Intolerance: Christian School Curricula, School Choice, and Public Policy (Phi Delta Kappa Educational Foundation).

If you are not scared, you should be.


lucette said...


I don't know the legal origin of the Public Schools. Is there a Prometheus book - or any other book - on the question?

My other question: Are there any limitations on what the vouchers can be used for? I understand the vouchers cannot (or not yet?) be used for homeschooling. Is any private institution calling itself a "school" entitled to receive the school vouchers as paymdnt?

Edd.Doerr said...

There are many books about the history of public schools in the US. Beginning in the early 19th century local schools under elected boards began to spread from Massachusetts to the rest of the country. At first they were locally funded and operated but soon state governments and taxes followed. There was no federal government or federal funding involved until the 1960s. Less than 10% of funding is federal. 90% is state and local.

So far vouchers may be used only in regular private and religious private schools. Over 80% are religious. There is little if any accountability or regulation and the church-related schools tend to be religiously homogeneous.

For more info see The Case Against School Vouchers, by me, Al Menendez and John Swomley (Prometheus Books, available from me at Box 6656, Silver Spring, MD 20916 for $8).

In a nutshell, vouchers are just a gimmick to allow churches to tap into the public treasury and to weaken church-state separation.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Doerr,

Why are you so fearful of conservative protestant schools? Why are you not yelling even louder about the quality of govt. schools?

Since 1962, schools have become more and more secular - exclusively - and have gotten worse and worse. Yet you believe that our society is better served to keep them that way?

If after almost 50 years it's not working, you still don't want to risk what vouchers could bring. Do you believe that it's "fair" (which is the mantra I constantly hear from the left about the rich needing
to pay more tax) that I have to pay for govt. schools when I home educate? Well I guess I already know that answer - since you disagree with me you seem to want to remove my rights as a parent to home educate because I'm doing such a dis-service to my children and society? Right? The government knows best ...

That's what gets me Mr. Doerr - how secularists just are so fearful of God in our society, that they would prefer to hold everyone back. For those of us who desire it, and until secularism completely dominates our society and laws, please allow my freedom as I do yours.

The education system is broken. But we've been down that road. Please stop thinking fearfully and call for the radical change that is necessary.