Feb 01, 2013

“National School Choice Week” is winding down, and we’ve been treated to an avalanche of propaganda for vouchers, neo-vouchers and other expressions of so-called “educational choice.”

It’s all a lie, of course. This is not about “choice.” It’s about funding religious and other private schools with taxpayer dollars and ultimately destroying the public school system.

If you think the Heritage Foundation, the Koch Brothers and Betsy DeVos are in this just to help to some poor kid in the inner city, they’ve got a privatized bridge in Brooklyn they want to sell you.

Fortunately, Americans United and other advocates of public schools and church-state separation have been spreading an alternative message: School vouchers are a constitutional and public policy disaster.

AU has waged a Twitter campaign this week to expose the voucher forces’ prevarications. And we’ve put up a special webpage to outline the facts about vouchers. (We have a tumblr page you might enjoy as well.)

Others are weighing in, too.

* Journalist Barbara J. Miner says vouchers in Milwaukee have been “an educational policy disaster.”

* The Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law says vouchers undercut civil rights and “violate the promise of equality.”

* Anti-creationism crusader Zack Kopplin says vouchers subsidize private religious schools that teach fundamentalist doctrines instead of sound science.

* Patrick Elliott, a staff attorney with the Freedom From Religion Foundation, says voucher-subsidized private schools in Milwaukee indoctrinate children in religious beliefs but often offer poor academic instruction. Clara Mohammed School, for example, takes children on a “Qu’ran-guided journey” but fails to take them anywhere else. “It is funded,” says Elliott, “almost exclusively through vouchers. In 2011, only 0.8% of its students –1 out of 123 – tested proficient in math and 5.7% tested proficient in reading on state exams.”

* Sectarian lobbies frankly admit that religious schools exist to evangelize, but they still want massive taxpayer funding. The National Catholic Educational Association is a major backer of “School Choice Week,” while the bishops remind us that parochial schools are key components of the hierarchy’s indoctrination efforts. Bishop Joseph P. McFadden, chairman of the bishops’ Committee on Catholic Education, says Catholic schools offer “a challenging education in an atmosphere where Jesus Christ is the center.” He calls Catholic schools “centers for the New Evangelization.”

Folks, we are in a real crisis here. Wealthy right-wing interest groups and sectarian lobbies are waging an all-out war on public schools. They want to destroy the public school system and move to a market-driven system where taxpayers are forced to support religious and other private schools of all sorts.

Major voucher campaigns are under way in Tennessee, Texas, Indiana, Wisconsin, Maine, Mississippi, Alaska and many other state legislatures. Just as ominous, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) is planning to roll out a national school voucher proposal in Congress.

This is serious business. If you care about church-state separation and strong public schools, join Americans United and get active NOW!