Edd Doerr fins a column titled “What part of
‘no’ don’t Nevada Republicans understand?”, by Allan Powell, interesting. It was published
in the Hagerstown (MD) Herald-Mail on June 12. Powell is professor
emeritus of philosophy at Hagerstown Community College and writes a
regular weekly column for the paper. He is the author is a number of
books on Maryland history and is a member of the ARL advisory board.
Powell, a crewman on a Catalina in the Pacific during WW II (
by the way), is a Humanist.
Lawmakers Betray Trusts
Lawmakers in Nevada join a growing
number of state legislatures that take pride in breaking two trusts; the pledge
to support public schools and pledge to abide by their constitution. According
to the Washington Post (6/14/15), a law that "any parent in Nevada can
pull a child from the state's public schools and take tax dollars with them,
giving families the option to use this money to pay for private or parochial
school, or even for home schooling". This is choice, out of control.
Edd Doerr, President of Americans for
Religious Liberty, a lifetime defender of the principle of separation of church
and state, was prompt and clear in charging the writers of "utter contempt
for the religious freedom of all tax payers who will be forced to support
religious institutions they would not support voluntarily". He is also
correct in pointing out that they violated the demands of the constitution of
their own state. Article XI, sections 9 and 10 read as follows: "No
sectarian instruction shall be imparted or tolerated in any school or
university that may be established under this constitution" and "No
public funds of any kind or character whatever, state, county or municipal,
shall be used for sectarian purposes". What part of no, don't they
For those that might be curious about
what the Maryland constitution has in print, I have a book that includes every
state's requirement. In a portion of Article 36, we find "Nor ought any
person to be compelled to frequent or maintain, or contribute, unless on
contract, to maintain any place of worship, or any ministry, nor shall any
person, otherwise competent, be deemed incompetent as a witness, or juror on
account of his religious belief ...."
Author Doerr points out that in 28
statewide referenda held between 1966 and 2014, support for vouchers is down by
"landslide margins". Voucher plans have been rejected as recently as
2012 in Florida and 2014 in Hawaii. Doerr also notes that voucher attempts are
by Republican political leaders. This was the case in Nevada where Republicans
of both houses supported the vote.
According to the account of the Nevada
law, its supporters got help from the same education foundation started by
Florida Governor, Jeb Bush. This must be seen as a national effort with the
goal of privatizing public school systems. In addition, this law was praised as
a "... huge victory for the children of Nevada" by Robert Enlow, the
leading executive of the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice which
promotes the philosophy of Milton Friedman. He, it will be recalled, is known
for teaching the economics of a free market.
What could the chief executive of a
for-profit organization mean about "A huge victory" for a school
system that changes from a clearly public school outlook to a business model?
Education grounded on a business outlook will be cost centered rather than a
service centered institution. Success will be judged by higher test scores in
competition with other countries. Love of knowledge for the sake of knowing
would seem odd. Development of character and quest for noble values would be
secondary to market interests. Community service would give way to personal
Citizens must realize that every
dollar transferred to vouchers is a drain from what could be used to improve
the public schools. Further, public schools expect to serve all classes and
races of students.
Those who study the movement to offer
vouchers, do not fail to point out that it is primarily a Republican
enterprise. The vote in Nevada followed party lines. One Republican leader who
worked for passage averred that "This is the wave of the future".
This lack of support of our public schools seems so unreal to those of us who
grew up long ago and remember how close we were to the schools in our
We well remember how patient our
teachers were. During the Depression era, most of us tried to find ways to earn
small change. We were not model students and teachers were well aware of our
struggle to get food and clothing. We did not blame teacher for shortcomings in
time and preparation for class. We looked up to those who were in public
education and there was little tension in the community about the need to get
into constitutional debates about the job of educators. One of our great gifts
in life is our public schools - they deserve our thanks and support.
Powell, Professor Emeritus, Philosophy, HCC