Vouchers? Christianity? Republicans? Oh my.

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Vouchers? Christianity? Republicans? Oh my.

By now you've surely heard of the Kochs. Meanwhile, the powerful, wealthy DeVos family has remained largely under the radar, while leading a stealth assault on America's schools.

Since the 2010 elections, voucher bills have popped up in legislatures around the nation. From Pennsylvania to Indiana to Florida, state governments across the country have introduced bills that would take money from public schools and use it to send students to private and religious institutions.

Vouchers have always been a staple of the right-wing agenda. Like previous efforts, this most recent push for vouchers is led by a network of conservative think tanks, PACs, Religious Right groups and wealthy conservative donors. But "school choice," as they euphemistically paint vouchers, is merely a means to an end. Their ultimate goal is the total elimination of our public education system.

The decades-long campaign to end public education is propelled by the super-wealthy, right-wing DeVos family. Betsy Prince DeVos is the sister of Erik Prince, founder of the notorious private military contractor Blackwater USA (now Xe), and wife of **** DeVos, son of the co-founder of Amway, the multi-tiered home products business.

By now, you've surely heard of the Koch brothers, whose behind-the-scenes financing of right-wing causes has been widely documented in the past year. The DeVoses have remained largely under the radar, despite the fact that their stealth assault on America's schools has the potential to do away with public education as we know it.

The conservative policy institutes founded beginning in the 1970s get hundreds of millions of dollars from wealthy families and foundations to develop and promote free market fundamentalism. More specifically, their goals include privatizing social security, reducing government regulations, thwarting environmental policy, dismantling unions -- and eliminating public schools.

Whatever they may say about giving poor students a leg up, their real priority is nothing short of the total dismantling of our public educational institutions, and they've admitted as much. Cato Institute founder Ed Crane and other conservative think tank leaders have signed the Public Proclamation to Separate School and State, which reads in part that signing on, "Announces to the world your commitment to end involvement by local, state, and federal government from education."

But Americans don't want their schools dismantled. So privatization advocates have recognized that it's not politically viable to openly push for full privatization and have resigned themselves to incrementally dismantling public school systems. The think tanks’ weapon of choice is school vouchers.

Vouchers are funded with public school dollars but are used to pay for students to attend private and parochial (religious-affiliated) schools. The idea was introduced in the 1950s by the high priest of free-market fundamentalism, Milton Friedman, who also made the real goal of the voucher movement clear: “Vouchers are not an end in themselves; they are a means to make a transition from a government to a free-market system." The quote is in a 1995 Cato Institute briefing paper titled “Public Schools: Make Them Private.”

Joseph Bast, president of Heartland Institute, stated in 1997, “Like most other conservatives and libertarians, we see vouchers as a major step toward the complete privatization of schooling. In fact, after careful study, we have come to the conclusion that they are the only way to dismantle the current socialist regime.” Bast added, “Government schools will diminish in enrollment and thus in number as parents shift their loyalty and vouchers to superior-performing private schools.”

But Bast's lofty goals have not panned out. That's because, quite simply, voucher programs do not work.

The longest running voucher program in the country is the 20-year-old Milwaukee School Choice Program. Standardized testing shows that the voucher students in private schools perform below the level of Milwaukee’s public school students, and even when socioeconomic status is factored in, the voucher students still score at or below the level of the students who remain in Milwaukee’s public schools. Cleveland’s voucher program has produced similar results. Private schools in the voucher program range from excellent to very poor. In some, less than 20 percent of students reach basic proficiency levels in math and reading.

Most Americans do not want their tax dollars to fund private and sectarian schools. Since 1966, 24 of 25 voucher initiatives have been defeated by voters, most by huge margins. Nevertheless, the pro-privatization battle continues, organized by an array of 527s, 501(c)(3)s, 501(c)(4)s, and political action committees. At the helm of this interconnected network is Betsy DeVos, the four-star general of the pro-voucher movement.

The DeVos Family Campaign for Privatization of Schools

The DeVoses are top contributors to the Republican Party and have provided the funding for major Religious Right organizations. And they spent millions of their own fortune promoting the failed voucher initiative in Michigan in 2000, dramatically outspending their opposition. Sixty-eight percent of Michigan voters rejected the voucher scheme. Following this defeat, the DeVoses altered their strategy.

Instead of taking the issue directly to voters, they would support bills for vouchers in state legislatures. In 2002 **** DeVos gave a speech on school choice at the Heritage Foundation. After an introduction by former Reagan Secretary of Education William Bennett, DeVos described a system of “rewards and consequences” to pressure state politicians to support vouchers. “That has got to be the battle. It will not be as visible,” stated DeVos. He described how his wife Betsy was putting these ideas into practice in their home state of Michigan and claimed this effort has reduced the number of anti-school choice Republicans from six to two. The millions raised from the wealthy pro-privatization contributors would be used to finance campaigns of voucher supporters and purchase ads attacking opposing candidates.

Media materials for Betsy DeVos’ group All Children Matter, formed in 2003, claimed the organization spent $7.6 million in its first year, “impacting state legislative elections in 10 targeted states” and a won/loss record of 121/60.

**** DeVos also explained to his Heritage Foundation audience that they should no longer use the term public schools, but instead start calling them “government schools.” He noted that the role of wealthy conservatives would have to be obscured. “We need to be cautious about talking too much about these activities,” said DeVos, and pointed to the need to “cut across a lot of historic boundaries, be they partisan, ethnic, or otherwise.”

Reinventing Vouchers

Like DeVos, several free-market think tanks have also issued warnings that vouchers appear to be an “elitist” plan. There's reason for their concern, given the long and racially charged history of vouchers.

School vouchers drew little public interest until Brown v. Board of Education and the court-ordered desegregation of public schools. Southern states devised voucher schemes for students to leave public schools and take the public funding with them.

Author Kevin Michael Kreuse explains how this plan was supposed to work in White Flight: Atlanta and the Making of Modern Conservatism. “At the heart of the plan to defend school segregation, for instance, stood a revolutionary scheme called the ‘private-school plan.’ In 1953, a full year before Brown, Governor Talmadge advanced a constitutional amendment giving the General Assembly the power to privatize the state’s entire system of public education. In the event of court-ordered desegregation, school buildings would be closed, and students would receive grants to attend private, segregated schools.”

Given the racist origins of vouchers, advocates of privatization have had to do two things: obscure the fact that the pro-privatization movement is backed primarily by white conservatives, and emphasize the support of African American and Democratic lawmakers where it exists.

In 2000, Howard Fuller founded the Black Alliance for Education Options. The group was largely funded by John Walton and the Bradley Foundation. Walton, a son of Walmart founder Sam Walton, contributed millions to the Betsy DeVos-led All Children Matter organization, including a bequest after his death in a plane crash in 2004.

A report by People for the American Way questions whose interest was being served in the partnership between the Alliance and conservative foundations. The summary of the report reads, “Over the past nine months, millions of Americans have seen lavishly produced TV ads featuring African American parents talking about school vouchers. These ads and their sponsor, the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO), portray vouchers as an effort to help low-income kids. But a new report explores the money trail behind BAEO, finding that it leads directly to a handful of wealthy right-wing foundations and individuals that have a deep agenda -- not only supporting the school voucher movement, but also backing anti-affirmative action campaigns and other efforts that African American organizations have opposed or considered offensive.”

Black Commentator.com was more blunt, describing vouchers as “The Right’s Final Answer to Brown” and tracking the history of vouchers from die-hard segregationists to the Heritage Foundation’s attempt to attach vouchers to federal legislation in 1981. The article stated, “The problem was, vouchers were still firmly (and correctly) associated with die-hard segregationists. Memories of white “massive resistance” to integration remained fresh, especially among blacks, who had never demanded vouchers -- not even once in all of the tens of thousands of demonstrations over the previous three decades.”

The article continues, “Former Reagan Education Secretary William Bennett understood what was missing from the voucher political chemistry: minorities. If visible elements of the black and Latino community could be ensnared in what was then a lily-white scheme, then the Right’s dream of a universal vouchers system to subsidize general privatization of education, might become a practical political project. More urgently, Bennett and other right-wing strategists saw that vouchers had the potential to drive a wedge between blacks and teachers unions, cracking the Democratic Party coalition. In 1988, Bennett urged the Catholic Church to 'seek out the poor, the disadvantaged…and take them in, educate them, and then ask society for fair recompense for your efforts' -- vouchers. The game was on.”

In this winning formula, vouchers or “scholarships” are advertised as the only hope for under served and urban minority children. Those who dare to defend public education from voucher schemes are, ironically, implied to be racist. Glossy brochures published by the DeVos-led entity All Children Matter show smiling faces of little children as well as those of the African American and Democratic politicians who have joined the campaign. Kevin Chavous, a former D.C. city councilman who takes credit for “shepherding” vouchers in D.C. and New Orleans, served as senior advisor to All Children Matters and now leads the BAEO and sits on the board of the DeVos-led AFC and Democrats for Education Reform.

All Children Matter was fined $5.2 million dollars in Ohio for breaking campaign finance laws, and lost an appeal in early 2010. The fine has not been paid. The DeVos-led organization also received bad press due to a fine in Wisconsin for failing to register their PAC as well as complaints in other states. In 2010 the entity began working under the name American Federation for Children (AFC) and registered new affiliate PACs across the nation, just in time for the 2010 elections.

The 2010 effort included a state that was not even included in **** DeVos’ list of potential targets when he spoke to the Heritage Foundation in 2002 -- Pennsylvania. An affiliate of AFC registered a PAC in Pennsylvania in March 2010 and less than a year later a voucher bill, SB-1, was sponsored in the Senate.

Throughout this well-coordinated campaign, the Pennsylvania press never once mentioned the name Betsy DeVos.

The Religious Right Foot Soldiers

The strategy in Pennsylvania in 2010, like efforts in other states, benefited from years of previous efforts to build alliances in the voucher movement. The conservative policy institutes have limited reach in the general public. In order to win the battle for hearts and minds, a larger public relations effort is required. The Religious Right fills this role with their tremendous broadcast capability and growing access to churches and homes. The partnership between free market fundamentalists and social conservatives is often contentious, but they share a common goal -- to end secular public education. The free marketers object to the “public” aspect while the Religious Right objects to the “secular” component of public education.

A significant forum that brings together free-market power brokers and Religious Right leaders is the Council for National Policy (CNP), a secretive group that has met several times annually behind closed doors since 1981. Richard DeVos described CNP as bringing together the “donors and the doers.” This partnership gives the Religious Right access to major funders, including Richard Mellon Scaife, who are not social conservatives.

Many of the free-market think tanks are secular, but there is a trend toward merging free-market fundamentalism with right-wing religious ideology. The Acton Institute is described by religious historian Randall Balmer as an example of the merging of corporate interests with advocates of “dominion theology.” Dominionism is the belief that Christians must take control over societal and government institutions. The Acton Institute funds events featuring dominionist leaders including Gary North, who claims that the bible mandates free market capitalism or “Biblical Capitalism.”

Betsy DeVos has served on the board of Acton, which is also funded by Scaife, Bradley and Exxon Mobil. A shared goal of this unlikely group of libertarians and theocrats is their battle against environmental regulation. One of the Acton Institute fellows leads a group of Religious Right organizations called the Cornwall Alliance, which is currently marketing a DVD titled Resisting the Green Dragon. The pseudo-documentary describes global warming as a hoax and claims environmentalism is a cult attacking Christianity. Another shared goal of the free marketers and Christian dominionists is eradicating secular public education.

Gary North explains why getting students out of public schools is key to the Christian dominionist camp. “So let us be blunt about it: we must use the doctrine of religious liberty to gain independence for Christian schools until we train up a generation of people who know that there is no religious neutrality, no neutral law, no neutral education, and no neutral civil government. Then they will get busy in constructing a Bible-based social, political, and religious order which finally denies the religious liberty of the enemies of God.”

And the Christian Right has been busy enacting this vision. One of the first goals of the Christian Coalition was to take control of 500 local public school boards, and it's a strategy the Religious Right has continued. One prominent example is Cynthia Dunbar, one of the members of the Texas State Board of Education which made controversial changes to the state’s social studies curriculum in 2010. Dunbar, who was advised by right-wing self-styled "historian" David Barton, is author of One Nation Under God and has described sending children to public schools as “throwing them into the enemy’s flames, even as the children of Israel threw their children to Moloch.”

In addition to getting Trojan horses on school boards, the Religious Right has played a significant role in disseminating anti-public school propaganda and forming alliances to support vouchers for private schools. Family Research Council (FRC), one of the entities funded by the Prince and DeVos families, documents the effort in Pennsylvania to cultivate a partnership between Protestants and Catholics who wanted public funding for their sectarian schools.

The data accompanying proposed bill SB-1, indicates that the majority of the public school funds that will be spent on vouchers will pay tuition for students already enrolled in private schools. In Milwaukee 80 percent of voucher program schools are religiously affiliated, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. In Cleveland, 52 percent of the students in the 29 Catholic diocesan schools are using taxpayer-funded vouchers, according to the Plain Dealer.

FRC’s Web site includes a 1999 speech by one of Pat Robertson’s biographers, in which he describes the school choice alliance in Pennsylvania of Protestant and Catholic leaders along with the Commonwealth Foundation and REACH Alliance. Commonwealth is a state think tank funded by the Scaife foundations. REACH Alliance is the statewide pro-voucher activist organization funded by the DeVos-led Alliance for School Choice (now also renamed American Federation for Children). This alliance is further described in the speech as forming "ties to black legislators based in Philadelphia, including Dwight Evans. This was big news for the Pennsylvania education reform movement because Evans is a powerful legislator and community leader."

Evans would indeed become key to expanding vouchers in the Philadelphia area, and he and state Senator Anthony Williams (not to be confused with the D.C. mayor by the same name), both Democrats, serve as directors of the BAEO.

The Battle for Pennsylvania

By the 2010 election, the groundwork had been laid and the heavy artillery brought into the state of Pennsylvania. First, a PAC was registered in March 2010 by Republican strategist Joe Watkins under the name Students First. Affiliated with the DeVos and Chavous-led AFC, the PAC shared the name with the organization founded by Michelle Rhee, a star of the popular pro-privatization movie Waiting for Superman. The Web site of Students First PAC touts the African-American Watkins' experience as an adviser to a president and pastor. There is no mention of the fact that the president was George W. Bush. The bio also neglects to include Watkins' ties to the Republican Party or his role in attack ads run on Fox News against presidential candidate Barack Obama in 2008.

Students First PAC received over $6 million in donations for use in the 2010 elections, much of that donated by three mega-donors whose names were unfamiliar to most Pennsylvanians. The three mega-donors, Joel Greenberg, Jeffrey Yass and Arthur Dantchik, also contributed over a million dollars to the AFC-affiliated PAC in Indiana and $6,000 dollars each to the gubernatorial campaign of Scott Walker. The Indiana PAC total was raised to almost $6 million by a few contributors, including Betsy DeVos herself and several Walton family members. Most of that money did not stay in Indiana but was distributed to affiliated PACs in six other states, including over a million sent back to Pennsylvania’s Students First.

Much of the Students First money went to the long-shot gubernatorial campaign of Anthony Williams. Williams lost in the primaries, but he brought statewide attention to his primary campaign cause -- school vouchers. Among Students First’s millions of expenditures was a $575 payment for conference registration to the Council for National Policy.

Pennsylvania press did not pay much attention to the background of the donors of the unprecedented millions pouring into the election in support of a single issue, describing them simply as supporters of school choice. Greenberg serves on the board of the Betsy DeVos-led AFC; Yass on the board of the pro-privatization think tank Cato Institute; and Dantchik on the board of the Institute for Justice, which describes itself as a merry band of libertarian litigators and is perhaps best known for its battles against affirmative action. It’s funded by Koch, Bradley, Olin, Scaife and Walton foundations and has now become a champion of school vouchers. The organization was credited by **** DeVos in his 2002 speech as serving a significant role through challenges to the Blaine Amendments in numerous states, which disallow public funds to be spent supporting religious schools.

Money continues to be spent on attack ads against both Republican and Democratic senators opposed to SB-1. The Scaife-funded Commonwealth Foundation has created a webpage to pressure wavering Republicans. The Koch-funded FreedomWorks sponsored mailers attacking Republican state Senator Stewart Greenleaf. The mailer is headlined, “There’s a battle in Harrisburg over our children’s future. Who will win? Our children or the powerful teacher’s union?” A Students First PAC mailer attacks Democratic state Senator Daylin Leach as opposing the bill because, “he is listening to teacher union leaders who oppose SB-1 and have contributed a fortune to people like Leach.”

Much of the Indiana PAC money was also used in media campaigns, including funds sent to Florida for media purchases. AFC was the sole funder of a pro-voucher group that ran ads in Jewish publications attacking Dan Gelber, a Jewish candidate for Florida attorney general who opposed vouchers. Full page “wanted ads” were purchased in Jewish publications accusing Gelber of “crimes against Jewish education.” Other ads purchased just prior to the election described Gelber as “Toxic to Jewish Education” in red Halloween-style letters.

**** DeVos’ model for “rewards and consequences” as described in his 2002 speech, is at work in Pennsylvania, Florida, and elsewhere, and it's a project funded by a few mega-donors. The voucher warriors with their unlimited funding are trying to create the absurd impression that they are the altruistic David in battle against the teachers’ union Goliath.

Betsy DeVos has announced that Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker are scheduled to speak at the National Policy Summit of the American Federation for Children on May 9. Walker wants to expand vouchers in Milwaukee despite the program's failure, made clear by disappointing standardized test results. Walker’s response? To halt the testing. Pennsylvania voucher supporters have already taken care of the pesky issue of accountability by defeating an amendment that would require the students using vouchers to take standardized tests.

During the AFC’s summit, it’s doubtful there will be speeches about eradicating public education but there will certainly be public relations-produced media everywhere, showing the beautiful faces of the little children these voucher proponents are supposedly saving. And Betsy DeVos, the four-star general of the voucher wars, will continue to advance a stealth campaign against American communities and working families -- the battle to eradicate public education

Sorry that this is so long. Do you see the school voucher programs being initiated as an assault against public education? Also, do you see them as a religiously driven program? Do you think that vouchers are a good thing for education in America, in general?

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Yay! I don't think there's ever been an offshot of something I've said on the GDB. I do think vouchers are meant to undermine the public education and divert government funds to religious education. I think vouchers are a terrible thing for America in general and in fact, several prominent and outspoken formerly pro-voucher people now agree with me.

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"Potter75" wrote:

Sorry that this is so long. Do you see the school voucher programs being initiated as an assault against public education? Also, do you see them as a religiously driven program? Do you think that vouchers are a good thing for education in America, in general?

No school voucher programs are not an assault on public education. I also don't think it's religiously driven.

I fully intend to expose my kids to both Catholic and public education throughouth their lifetime. I am 100% in favor or school vouchers for Catholic schools (and any other private school for other people). I see them as a great equalizer. When Catholic schools were created, they were mainly for poor Catholic immigrants. Tuition was free or minimal as most of the schools were staffed with clergy. Today, most schools are lucky to have one clergy memeber (if any) on staff and they must now pay teacher salaries (at a fraction of what public school teachers make). They do not have the budget or resources that the public schools offer so they must make up for that in tuiton.

Now we may be able to afford tuition for our children to attend Catholic schools but they were never intended to be schools for the privileged. They are supposed to educate any student who wants to attend. That is a big reason why I am a proponent for vouchers.

In countries like Canada and Ireland, Catholic schools are publicly funded and parents get to choose secular or Catholic. I like that system.

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Why shouldn't parents be responsible for funding their children's religious education instead of the government? If a parent prefers a religious education for their child, it is up to the parents or the church to provide for that. The government should not be taking on a role as religious educator.

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I like vouchers. I have no problem with my tax payer money going to a Catholic or other charter school even though my kids attend a regular public school. When those kids attend other schools it also changes the dynamics at the public school and I don't think that's all bad. I think vouchers encourage better education all around. The more options available the better the chances that someone is going to create a school that will best educate a child....all children learn differently. To think that public school is the best option for all is rather silly.

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"runningmom" wrote:

I like vouchers. I have no problem with my tax payer money going to a Catholic or other charter school even though my kids attend a regular public school. When those kids attend other schools it also changes the dynamics at the public school and I don't think that's all bad. I think vouchers encourage better education all around. The more options available the better the chances that someone is going to create a school that will best educate a child....all children learn differently. To think that public school is the best option for all is rather silly.

Private schools can cherry pick the best students, leaving the most challenging behind in public schools. How does that create a better dynamic?

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I live in a school district that actually does not provide its own 9 - 12 education as there is no high school in the district. They have a contract with a local public high school in which the high school agrees to accept all students from my district. However, if you are accepted by the local private high school (which is excellent) our district will pay your tuition. My husband and all of his siblings went to the local private school.

I will fully admit that while *I* am very happy to have this opportunity, i could see how it can create a divide between those who are accepted and can excel there, and those who were not accepted. However those who were not accepted would not be accepted even if they had to pay their own way.

But on the flip side, you could look at it as providing the opportunity to those who might otherwise not afford it. Could my husbands family had afforded to send all 4 of their kids there? I don't know...but obviously it was an opportunity once provided to them that was well spent.

Would we be shelling out the money to send our kids there if we had to? Again, I don't know..my guess is no, but we haven't reached that point in our lives yet. So right now, i'm saying we are fortunate and I'm selfishly glad it works the way it does. I'm undecided however in this situation if its really wrong to do it this way.

As for a plan to go without public schools at all? I'm against that, and from the sounds of the article, there is obviously a group that is using this as a means to get to that. I find that very believeable. As for the religious aspect of it? That was only one section of the entire article. Again, very believeable that some people have this as their agenda. Enough for me to worry about it? Not really.

FTR: The private high school that we can send our kids to is not religiously affiliated. It once was a long time ago, but is not now.

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I've attended public and private schools and was homeschooled for a short time. Our child will be in private even if we have to pay for it because there is no doubt in my mind that private schools are better for children. I don't care if it's religous or not, my religion or not. Private schools lead to a better education because there is less political influence in the day to day operation and less crappy people to deal with on a day to day basis. In the private school I attended, if you were a crappy teacher, you were fired. In the public middle school I went to, we had a teacher show up to work drunk at least one day a week. Like pass out in the classroom drunk, but she is still teaching because of some contract crap. If a student hit someone, they were expelled. No second chances, no calling parents, you just didn't freaking hit someone. In public school there was a detention, then an in school suspension, then a real suspension, then the cops were called, and then after a legal battle with the parents, an expulsion. I don't want my kid in the same building with kids like that.

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"wlillie" wrote:

I've attended public and private schools and was homeschooled for a short time. Our child will be in private even if we have to pay for it because there is no doubt in my mind that private schools are better for children. I don't care if it's religous or not, my religion or not. Private schools lead to a better education because there is less political influence in the day to day operation and less crappy people to deal with on a day to day basis. In the private school I attended, if you were a crappy teacher, you were fired. In the public middle school I went to, we had a teacher show up to work drunk at least one day a week. Like pass out in the classroom drunk, but she is still teaching because of some contract crap. If a student hit someone, they were expelled. No second chances, no calling parents, you just didn't freaking hit someone. In public school there was a detention, then an in school suspension, then a real suspension, then the cops were called, and then after a legal battle with the parents, an expulsion. I don't want my kid in the same building with kids like that.

Thats interesting. I'm actually pulling my kids out of the private elementary school they are in because of a whole lot of crap...especially agenda pushing influence type crap. I think this isn't a easy blanket statement to make. I will say...the teacher quality is great though where htey are right now...which is why i'm letting my eldest stay.

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"wlillie" wrote:

I've attended public and private schools and was homeschooled for a short time. Our child will be in private even if we have to pay for it because there is no doubt in my mind that private schools are better for children. I don't care if it's religous or not, my religion or not. Private schools lead to a better education because there is less political influence in the day to day operation and less crappy people to deal with on a day to day basis. In the private school I attended, if you were a crappy teacher, you were fired. In the public middle school I went to, we had a teacher show up to work drunk at least one day a week. Like pass out in the classroom drunk, but she is still teaching because of some contract crap. If a student hit someone, they were expelled. No second chances, no calling parents, you just didn't freaking hit someone. In public school there was a detention, then an in school suspension, then a real suspension, then the cops were called, and then after a legal battle with the parents, an expulsion. I don't want my kid in the same building with kids like that.

I went to public through 5th grade then private religious from 6-12. I had the absolute opposite experience as you did. Not doubting your experience for a second, but my time spent in private religious school has made it so important to me that it is actually in our will that in the event of a catastrophic event where we both die the guardians of our children are not allowed to send them to private religious school. The bulk of the private schools around me run 25-40K/year (yes, from K on up) and we are as uninterested in sending our kids with a homogenous bunch of rich kids as we are with a homogenous bunch of religious people.....so we are thrilled to live in an area with such fantastic public schools.

ETA'ing ~ the private religious school that I went to was NO WHERE in that price range. I was talking about private non religious (or, like psuedo religious Friends schools or Academies where they may have a religious affiliation originally (Jesuit or whatnot), but none in actual daily practice when I mentioned the current price tag on the private day schools in my area. My school was way too religious to cost that much Smile

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Yeah. I do keep forgetting not everyone has the same experience as me. We were dirt poor; my mom worked as the janitor so we could go, and we were never treated differently from the kids who paid tuition. So probably not your typical private school; maybe I should say Southern private school. Smile

eta- and Louisiana/Mississippi public schools pretty much have been taking turns being at the bottom of the list so probably a huge difference there too.

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Agree with Kate.

Additionally, I believe that if "private" schools are accepting public money in the form of vouchers, then they should be considered public, and should fall under the same rules as any other public school, including the Establishment Clause. So yeah, your Catholic School can start taking vouchers....so long as they agree not to teach religion any more. Fair deal? No?

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"Alissa_Sal" wrote:

Agree with Kate.

Additionally, I believe that if "private" schools are accepting public money in the form of vouchers, then they should be considered public, and should fall under the same rules as any other public school, including the Establishment Clause. So yeah, your Catholic School can start taking vouchers....so long as they agree not to teach religion any more. Fair deal? No?

Well i don't agree with this. They are accepting it in the form of tuition....which is owed by the individual. The govt. provides the money to the individual. The private school didn't ask for that voucher money specifically from the govt., they asked for the tuition owed for the individual attending...just like every other individual there.

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"KimPossible" wrote:

Well i don't agree with this. They are accepting it in the form of tuition....which is owed by the individual. The govt. provides the money to the individual. The private school didn't ask for that voucher money specifically from the govt., they asked for the tuition owed for the individual attending...just like every other individual there.

But the money is coming from the government and can only be used for schooling, correct? Therefore, in my mind, it doesn't matter if it is being funneled through an individual for a moment, the money is still going from the tax payers to the school. If all of the students were "paying" in that way and 100% of the tuition was coming from tax payer money, how would that be different from a public school?

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"Alissa_Sal" wrote:

But the money is coming from the government and can only be used for schooling, correct? Therefore, in my mind, it doesn't matter if it is being funneled through an individual for a moment, the money is still going from the tax payers to the school. If all of the students were "paying" in that way and 100% of the tuition was coming from tax payer money, how would that be different from a public school?

Yeah but thats the governments decision...its not like the school requested the government money. I would be PO'd as a private school if the state govt decided to go with a voucher program...meaning i inderectly received funding and then therefore had to abide by public school regulations. That really makes no sense. The private school would be at the mercy of the govt.

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I think everyone should have choices when it comes to schooling. That's why I'm a huge fan of charter schools. I'm not such a huge fan of vouchers for private schools. I'm not sure why it bugs me though. I'll try to keep up with this debate and maybe I can form a stronger opinion one way or the other.....

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"KimPossible" wrote:

Yeah but thats the governments decision...its not like the school requested the government money. I would be PO'd as a private school if the state govt decided to go with a voucher program...meaning i inderectly received funding and then therefore had to abide by public school regulations. That really makes no sense. The private school would be at the mercy of the govt.

Exactly. Which is why, to me, the government should not be funding private schools. I think that once they do, they start blurring that line, and that gives the government the right to tell private schools what to do. I think that the people on the Right that are trying to use tax payer money to pay for religious education are shooting themselves in the foot, because if they make all school private, in a sense, all school will be public. And that means we are back to the separation of church and state. They should leave it alone and let people who want to send their kids to private religious schools pay for those private religious schools so that the government *can't* interfere with what they are teaching. You can't have your cake and eat it too. Either the government is involved or it isn't.

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"Alissa_Sal" wrote:

Exactly. Which is why, to me, the government should not be funding private schools. I think that once they do, they start blurring that line, and that gives the government the right to tell private schools what to do. I think that the people on the Right that are trying to use tax payer money to pay for religious education are shooting themselves in the foot, because if they make all school private, in a sense, all school will be public. And that means we are back to the separation of church and state. They should leave it alone and let people who want to send their kids to private religious schools pay for those private religious schools so that the government *can't* interfere with what they are teaching. You can't have your cake and eat it too. Either the government is involved or it isn't.

Well, i'm not really a fan of a voucher system either...but in the case that there was one, i was disagreeing with your assertion. But now it sounds like you don't really mean it...you were just making the argument to drive home a point. If its the latter, I get it...but if for any reason this were to happen (which i don't think it will), i would be completely against what you suggested.

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"CalBearInBoston" wrote:

Why shouldn't parents be responsible for funding their children's religious education instead of the government? If a parent prefers a religious education for their child, it is up to the parents or the church to provide for that. The government should not be taking on a role as religious educator.

Well, parents are responsible for funding their children's religious education as it stands now. I just answered the question Potter presented. I like vouchers, especially for Catholic schools but that's probably because I am Catholic, like Catholic schools, see a great benefit to them, especially in urban areas where public schools are failing, and have gone to both myself (as have my kids) and I've worked in both.

I think vouchers are a good idea and I have no problem with the govt. funding religious institutions as long as people are not forced to attend religious schools - like in Canada and Ireland :stpatricks:

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"KimPossible" wrote:

Well, i'm not really a fan of a voucher system either...but in the case that there was one, i was disagreeing with your assertion. But now it sounds like you don't really mean it...you were just making the argument to drive home a point. If its the latter, I get it...but if for any reason this were to happen (which i don't think it will), i would be completely against what you suggested.

Don't really mean what? I absolutely mean that if the government pays for private schools, they should have to conform to the establishment clause. I don't think that the government should do this, but if they do that is the logical conclusion in my mind. Government support = government control.

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"SoxyToo" wrote:

I think vouchers are a good idea and I have no problem with the govt. funding religious institutions as long as people are not forced to attend religious schools - like in Canada and Ireland :stpatricks:

There are children forced to attend religious schools in Canada, I don't know about Ireland.

The Catholic school system is on its way out in Canada, no reason for the US to repeat Canada's mistakes from hundreds of years ago.

School vouchers is about power. People nowadays want schools to be like Starbucks, to pick and choose four hundred flavours to have something unique without actually putting the work in and making it themselves.

I would love for my children to be educated in English. But for that to happen I have to teach them myself or pay someone to do it, after real school. Of course it hurts my heart that English is not their priority, that their regular public school education is. It is hard work doing afterschooling. I can see why people who want a special type of religious education want the power to change their children's education. But if they want their kids to have a relgious education, they can teach them after school or put them in specific schools for that on their own dime, just like my choices.

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"Alissa_Sal" wrote:

Government support = government control.

I completely agree.

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I agree with Kate, Potter, Allissa, and blather.

Oh and having a Dh who worked in a religious private school......no they are not always better, even in the south. Some are, some are not. Just like some public schools suck and some are the best around. I think public money shoudl go to public education. Period! If a school systme is so bad that you want to give parents the choice to not go, then fix it. Don't take money away from it.

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"Alissa_Sal" wrote:

Don't really mean what? I absolutely mean that if the government pays for private schools, they should have to conform to the establishment clause. I don't think that the government should do this, but if they do that is the logical conclusion in my mind. Government support = government control.

So then you could make a great argument for a government health care system. Since there is government health insurance for the poor and elderly that makes it to private practices. I guess they should no longer be private anymore.

I just don't think this is a logical step. There is lots of government cash that ends up in private hands eventually.

Anyway, it doesn't matter, i'm not in favor of a voucher system and i guess thats what this debate is ultimately about.