A short time ago, I wrote about how taxpayers are funding public benefits for workers because of the low wages that companies like Walmart provide to their employees. Another cost to taxpayers in at least 14 states is for religious instruction. (A state-by-state breakdown of schools is available here.) Private school tuition through voucher programs are costing taxpayers almost $1 billion to provide misinformation in science, mathematics, history, and other areas of instruction—all in the name of religion.
Court cases across the nation and at the U.S. Supreme Court have upheld the constitutional separation of church and state in schools. Public schools cannot teach creationism or intelligent design. But private schools can—and do—provide these misinformation to their students while schools receive public subsidies. The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld voucher programs, even when they subsidize religious education, as long as parents who accept vouchers can choose where to spend them.
In a review of hundreds of pages of school curriculum, course outlines, textbooks, and websites, Politico discovered a “disdain of the secular world, distrust of momentous discoveries and hostility toward mainstream scientists. They often distort basic facts about the scientific method–teaching, for instance, that theories such as evolution are by definition highly speculative because they haven’t been elevated to the status of “scientific law.” Private schools have the advantage of ignoring all standards and set their own curriculum with almost no oversight.
Taxpayers are forced to pay for curriculum that includes the religious belief that the planet is only 6,000 years old. Taxpayers fund education falsely teaching that people lived at the same time as dinosaurs. Textbooks popular in Christian schools describe evolution as “a wicked and vain philosophy,” while students practice vocabulary lessons that claim “many scientists today are creationists.” Eric Meikle, project director at the National Center for Science Education, said, “I don’t think the function of public education is to prepare students for the turn of the 19th century.”
Textbooks deride “modern math theorists” who fail to view mathematics as absolute laws ordained by God and shun “modern” breakthroughs such as set theory which was developed in the 19th century. In the classroom, math teachers set aside time tech week, even in geometry and algebra, to explore numbers in the Bible. According to these schools, mathematics laws are ordained by God.
Because of recent articles on the Internet, people are somewhat aware of the horrifying science and math curriculum in private schools. Social studies, however, suffer from the same abuses of information. Christian publishers A Beka Beook and Bob Jones University Publishing have their products in 43 percent of religious voucher schools that responded to a 2003 survey. Here is a tiny sample of what they teach. Details are available here about the religious schools view of 20th century history:
- The Great Depression was a myth, made up rumors to spread socialism.
- Karl Marx and Charles Darwin were responsible for Hitler and the Nazis; Germans accepted Hitler’s ideas because they accepted evolution.
- The culture of post-World War II brought strong families and kept crime to the “back alleys.” Because of the evangelists’ crusades during the 1950s, Billy Graham was “one of the best known and respected persons in America and the world.”
- Problems in the 1960s and 1970s came from the suspension of the death penalty and the legalization of abortion. “Prosperity and new-wound enjoyments” caused people to ‘forget’ God” with an increase in crime, the legalization of gambling, and “the teachings of Sigmund Freud.”
- “Pornographic films and books were legalized under the guise of ‘freedom of speech.’”
Instruction in these schools on guns: “The founding fathers… understood that unarmed citizens would not be able to stand against a tyrannical government.” Gun control is a “gateway to tyranny.” Hitler, Stalin, and Mao disarmed their citizens. “Armed citizens could also play a major role in thwarting Globalism, the idea to bring the world together under ‘one global government.’ making the constitution null and void.”
Biography curriculum in private schools:
- Clarence Thomas is the greatest example of black American achievement. (No mention of Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American Supreme Court justice and champion of civil rights.)
- Bill Clinton and Ross Perot joined forces during the 1990s to create another myth of economic crisis. “Bill Clinton had dodged military service and participated in anti-war demonstration in Great Britain.”
- George W. Bush saved the country from Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction. (No mention of George W. Bush’s draft-dodging.)
- Barack Obama should be known for his tolerance of “people who choose to live an alternative lifestyle, a ‘lifestyle’ the Bible calls sin.” The subject of homosexuality is in the chapter on “Cultural Decay.”
Critical thinking is these private schools is almost nonexistent. According to one school, “Our understanding is not complete until we filter it through God’s Word.” This is the “DISCERN” system used in thinking: Determine your choices; Inquire of God through prayer; Search the scriptures; Consider godly counsel; Eliminate worldly thinking; Recognize God’s leading; Never compromise the truth. In addition to the “Discern” method, funded by public taxes, many schools are clear about their goal to arm students against using multiculturalism in looking at the world.
About 250,000 students currently use vouchers and tax-credit scholarships. Although that’s a fraction of the country’s 55 million public school students, it has increased 30 percent since 2010. States are also planning increases: for example, Florida plans to go from $286 million this year to $700 million in 2018. The state will be joined by 26 states that are considering new voucher programs or the expansion of current ones.
A popular plan is stocking individual bank accounts with state funds that parents can spend on religious and secular tutors as well as schools. The Arizona Supreme Court has already decided that this approach is constitutional. The state plans to make more than 70 percent of the state’s students eligible for vouchers.
Arizona’s state education superintendent, John Huppenthal, has made recorded calls to thousands of parents touting the Arizona’s Empowerment Scholarship Account. Eligible families can receive an average of $13,000 a year in public funds for their children’s education, including the purchase of materials on creationism. Huppenthal liked this public education but helped pass a state law to prevent Mexican-American studies in high schools by threatening to shut off their public funding. Only a federal court order reinstated the popular class.
Voucher supporters spend heavily to elect lawmakers who believe in this system. The American Federation for Children, a major pro-voucher group, has spent $18 million on campaigns since 2007, and the Koch group Americans for Prosperity has campaigned for private school subsidies in ten states.
New York’s Cardinal Timothy Dolan is personally lobbying for $150 million a year on private school subsidies. The state Senate has passed the initiative, and the Assembly has 100 co-sponsors. Information about other states is available here.
On the federal level, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) has introduced a bill to consolidate dozens of federal education programs into one $24 billion funding stream for state vouchers. He disagrees that vouchers would put students into religious schools that devalue education. He cites the achievements of students in Catholic schools. Yet those students typically come from well-educated families and are far less likely to be poor, have disabilities, or still be learning English. A study controlling for these variables found that private schools have no advantage.
Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) is pushing school choice. He said, “It is my personal goal that in 10 years, every child in America will have education opportunity through school choice no matter where they live.” Other GOP members of Congress are determined to restore Washington, D.C. vouchers in the budget.
School voucher programs are not only ineffective. These programs exacerbate the inequality within the nation’s schools and weaken the public school system as a whole. In addition, many parents receiving voucher payments already send their children to private religious schools. And taxpayers are forced to finance this abuse of the educational system.
Among the world’s most-developed countries, U.S. students are below average in math and close to average in science and reading. In 2009, 23 nations and other jurisdictions outperformed U.S. students; three years later, 29 locales do so. In science, 22 of those scored were above the U.S., up from 18 three in 2009. In 2012, U.S. students were down by 19, over double from the tenth position three years earlier. U.S. students are below Russia. The prevalence of the vouchers to religious schools will guarantee another drop when the next comparison is done next year.