May 2003 Church & State | People & Events

A researcher at Princeton University has concluded that African-American children in New York City who received vouchers through a privately funded program did not receive academic gains.

The report by Alan B. Krueger, a professor of economics and public policy, analyzed data presented last year by Harvard University Professor of Government Paul E. Peterson that found black students in the voucher schools scoring 5.5 points higher on standardized tests than their counterparts in public schools.

Peterson did not find the same effect for Hispanic students who received vouchers under the program, which has been in operation since 1997. That fact intrigued Krueger, who requested the test data from Mathematica Policy Research, Inc., a private group based in Princeton, N.J.

Krueger's study of the data showed no academic gains for African-American students in the voucher plan, reported Education Week.

"This research has really been blown out of proportion," Krueger said at an April 1 press conference. "For the most representative sample of black elementary school students, offering a voucher had no statistically discernible impact on achievement scores in the New York City experiment."

In analyzing the data, Krueger concluded that Peterson had erred by omitting too many children from the statistical sample. He also found that allowing a parent or guardian to state a child's race led to children of mixed race being omitted from the sample when they should have been included.

Including the omitted children, Krueger found a gain of only 1.44 percentile points on standardized tests, a figure that is not statistically significant.

Peterson was invited to attend the press conference but declined. He stood by his original findings, telling Educa­tion Week that he plans to respond to Krueger's study in detail soon.

Voucher opponents have been skeptical of Peterson's findings since he is a known voucher advocate who has testified in favor of the plans in court and has written opinion pieces criticizing anti-voucher groups.

Army Should Not Assist Baptist Outreach Effort, Says Americans United

Americans United has warned officials with the U.S. Army not to promote a Southern Baptist evangelism program.

In an April 4 letter to Secretary of the Army Thomas E. White, Americans United protested Major General William G. Boykin's endorsement of the Southern Baptists' "Super FAITH Force Multi­plier" program and his use of Ft. Bragg, N.C., military facilities and personnel to promote the ministry.

According to materials advertising the Ft. Bragg event, Southern Baptist pastors would be given unprecedented access to the military base while being recruited for the denomination's outreach program.

A March 3 letter to clergy from the Rev. Bobby H. Welch, pastor of the First Baptist Church in Daytona Beach, Fla., says, "I am writing to you about a once in a lifetime opportunity to join a group of warriors at the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School at Fort Bragg, NC. Major General William G. 'Jerry' Boykin has personally invited you and a select group of other FAITH Pastors to join him April 22nd and 23rd....You can be absolutely guaranteed you will never, ever have this type of opportunity again! You will go with General Boykin and Green Beret instructors to places where no civilians and few soldiers ever go.

"THE PURPOSE OF THE GATHERING? It is believed by you, me and others that we must find a group of men who are warriors of FAITH, pastors who have guts to lead this nation to Christ and revival!," continued Welch, whose church is the birthplace of the FAITH program. (The "evangelism strategy" now widely used by Southern Baptists in the United States and overseas.)

An information sheet about the Baptist-led event says clergy participants would spend the night of April 22 on post at Ft. Bragg. Other activities would include a stop at Command Headquarters ("one of the most heavily secured areas at Ft. Bragg"), a Special Forces demonstration of "today's war fighting weapons" (with "live fire/real bullets"), a visit to the "Shoot House" to learn how "Special Forces attack the enemy inside buildings (live fire/real bullets)" and a speech by Gen. Boykin along with informal time with him.

A promotional flier produced by the Southern Baptist Lifeway Ministry describes Boykin as a devout Christian who strongly supports the FAITH outreach program.

According to the flier, General Boykin has told FAITH participants that "the way they are trained is like the concept of Special Forces training one person trains 100, who in turn can train 10,000."

The flier quotes Boykin as saying about the current war on terrorism, "Bin Laden is not the enemy. No mortal is the enemy. It's the enemy you can't see. It's a war against the forces of darkness. The battle won't be won with guns. It will be won on our knees."

Americans United asked army officials to cancel the government-endorsed evangelism meeting.

In an April 7 press release, AU Executive Director Barry W. Lynn said, "This is a clear violation of the separation of church and state. Our military has no business using its resources to aid evangelism.