Edd Doerr, president, Americans for Religious Liberty, Silver Spring, Md. notes this posting in the
Majority of Americans give public schools high marks
This letter is in reference to Larry Smith’s June 18 letter criticizing Allan Powell’s June 12 column on Nevada’s unconstitutional lurch toward school privatization.
While our public schools, like everything else, can stand improvement, 40 years of annual Gallup surveys of public opinion on educational issues have shown that two-thirds of Americans consistently give an A or B rating to the public schools attended by their own children. And Maryland public schools consistently rank among the best in the United States.
Can our public schools be improved? Yes. And leading educators have shown how — with more adequate and more equitably distributed funding, smaller classes, universal pre-K education, wraparound social and medical services, enriched curricula, serious efforts to deal with the poverty that afflicts more than a quarter of our kids, and an end to the diversion of public funds to special-interest private schools that tend to fragment the school population along religious, ideological, social class, ethnic and other lines.
School privatization is definitely not the answer. As educators Christopher and Sarah Lubienski show in their 2014 book, “The Public School Advantage: Why Public Schools Outperform Private Schools,” any apparent advantage of private schools is due to their undemocratic selectivity.
Further, as Powell noted, millions of voters from coast to coast in 28 statewide referenda have rejected all devices for diverting public funds to private schools by an average margin of 2 to 1. In Maryland, voters defeated tax aid to private schools in 1972 and 1974 referenda, as did Washington, D.C., voters in 1981 by the astounding margin of 89 percent to 11 percent.
Finally, most state constitutions ban tax aid to religious institutions (about 90 percent of private schools are run by religious organizations) because, as Bill of Rights architect James Madison made clear in his 1785 Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments, it is a violation of religious liberty for government to compel citizens to support religious institutions, their own or anyone else’s.