Public Education

NC Lt. Gov. Dan Forest: America 'Must Decide For Or Against God'

North Carolina Lt. Gov. Dan Forest followed Texas Lt. Gov. candidate Dan Patrick to the microphone at the Faith and Freedom Coalition’s 2014 Road to Majority conference. Forest joked about following another “Lieutenant Dan” and said he’d been backstage crossing things out because Patrick was already saying them. Indeed, Forest’s comments about the Constitution being grounded in “biblical truth” echoed Patrick’s Christian-nation address. “My friends,” Forest said, “America is at a great crossroads where it must decide for or against God.”

Excerpts from Dan Forest's remarks:

Forest quoted George Washington and Abraham Lincoln writing about the nation relying on God’s aid, and he said that the Declaration of Independence’s assertion that all men are created equal and endowed by their creator with the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness was “one small declaration from tyranny, one giant declaration of dependence upon Almighty God.”

American leaders, he said, continued to rely on God until Supreme Court rulings on church-state separation:

In America, as time moved on, our leaders sought the help of the Lord through the great and terrible Civil War, through a Great Depression, through two great world wars and numerous other conflicts. Then, in 1947 our Supreme Court separated church and state and placed a high wall between the two. In 1962 our Supreme Court removed prayer from our public schools. In 1973, our Supreme Court ruled that it was OK to kill children still in the womb. In the span of a mere 25 years, we, the people allowed our nation to turn its back on God in the name of independence and freedom.

And he began a litany of ways he said America had turned its back on God:

We have forgotten God and we call it freedom.

We kill our children for convenience, and we call it freedom.

We enslave our poor in welfare and call it freedom.

We take from the hard working and give to the sluggard in the name of income equality and call it freedom.

We allow our children to become addicted to pornography in the name of free speech and we call it freedom.

We rack up mountains of debt on the backs of our grandchildren and we call it freedom.

We reward the criminal at the expense of the victim and we call it freedom.

We take God out of our schoolhouse, out of our statehouse, out of our courthouse and we call it freedom.

We allow a few individuals in the courts to determine the moral standard for all and we call it freedom.

Forest said the country must choose between “policy band-aids” and getting at the root of problems, which is that we as a nation have taken our eyes of God, “who is the giver of truth, virtue, and a moral compass.”

The heart of the matter is we have forgotten God. We have kicked him out of our house, out of our schoolhouse, out of our courthouse, and out of our statehouse, and now, out of our nation. We call it everything but what it is, we call it everything but sin, the turning away from God.

He said that the national focus on rebuilding after the 9/11 attacks was done in the name of freedom and security, but that we did it by our own strength rather than relying on God.

We don’t just need, my friends, to rebuild the walls of America. We need to rebuild the biblical foundation upon which the walls sit. We need to trust God. Fear only comes when we don’t believe that God is who he says he is. If God is the creator of the universe, if he allows our hearts to beat and our lungs to breathe, why do we not trust him? If we trust God, my friends, there is nothing we can’t accomplish. With him we can do anything. Apart from him we can do nothing. Seek first his kingdom and all these things will be given.

We continue to declare ‘God Bless America’ without doing our part, without prayer, without fasting, and repentance as a nation, without recognizing the sins we commit and humbling ourselves before the sovereign ruler of nations, and asking for forgiveness.

It is time for America to recognize that freedom does not come from being a nation of wealth, power, influence, abundance, and ease – but rather it comes from being a humble nation on its knees. It behooves us then, to humble ourselves before the offended power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.

 

Ohio Board Of Education Member Calls On Religious Right To Take Over Education

One of Ralph Reed’s most infamous statements — “I want to be invisible. I do guerilla warfare…You don't know it's over until you're in a body bag” — came in an era of school board takeovers by stealth Religious Right candidates. But stealth is so 1990s. At the Road to Majority conference sponsored by Reed’s Faith and Freedom coalition last weekend, a member of the Ohio state board of education openly called on conservative Christians to take over the educational system and return it to a foundation of “biblical truth.”

Mark Smith, who was appointed to the board of education by Gov. John Kasich last year, is president of Ohio Christian University and president of the Ohio Faith and Freedom Coalition. He said at one board meeting that books like Toni Morrison’s “The Bluest Eye” are “quite divisive” and part of an “underlying socialist-communist agenda.”

Excerpts from Smith's Friday night address to the 2014 Road to Majority conference:

At Road to Majority, Smith sounded as if he’s been reading discredited “historian” David Barton’s claims about the Constitution being drawn directly from the Bible.

“America, for 60 years we have tried to deny the source of truth. But we as a nation must not forget that truth, biblical truth, is what we were founded upon.  In fact, let me remind you, truth concepts like liberty, freedom, personal responsibility, law, justice, and hope are all words that came out of the Bible. They are words that our founders relied upon and they understood that biblical truth was our foundation.”

America was blessed for more than 200 years, Smith says, because it recognized God and biblical truth, and our current problems come from a rejection of those principles

“The first problem that I see is a God problem. Too many people think that they’re God, but we know that they are not. There is only one true God. In current society, you see people deciding critical issues by all manner of means, humanistic thinking, and polls. But many of them do not consider that the Lord our God is how they should be considering these issues.”

Smith also sees the desire for equality as a major problem.

“Secondly in America, we have a truth problem. Few understand foundational truth. The basis for our American doctrines and documents has been biblical truth....”

“In fact, let me remind you further that equality and liberty are in opposition to each other. We hear equality, equality, equality. If you begin to study what you’re being fed by the media and by the president that is in our office today, you would understand that this word equality and liberty are diametrically opposed.”

A third problem, he says, is an educational problem.

 “It’s no secret that our educational system is full of teachers and professors who desire to obfuscate truth, and these individuals are effectively [deconstructing] our nation. It’s been happening since John Dewey and his humanist manifesto.”

He said that Common Core, Race to the Top, and other efforts to “nationalize” the curriculum “are becoming an agenda that is hostile to the traditional family, promoting causes that we do not believe in, promoting sexual promiscuity — I’ve looked at the material and I refuse to accept it.”

He urged conservative Christians to join him in taking a stand for traditional marriage and to take back the country’s schools:

“You see I’m excited to lead the cause for the rebirth of faith values in America, the rebirth of embracing a love for God, the love for family, and a love for our nation. I like traditional marriage. I’m for traditional marriage. Let’s embrace traditional marriage....”

“I call on us to stand and to bring about change in a failed educational system that opposes freedom, capitalism, and personal responsibility, and that wastes billions of dollars on experiments on our children. It’s fine for us to take back our school system, and every one of you should be running for school boards, getting involved in the Department of Education, in the state board of education – and you should take it back as Faith and Freedom members, that is the hope for America.

Ohio Christian University seems to be doing its part. Its lobbyist helped push through the legislature a program that allows gifted high school students to take classes at OCU at taxpayer expense. The Akron Beacon Journal reported in February that OCU’s lobbyist C. Todd Jones “not only sits on the school board with Smith but chairs the committee” responsible for guidelines for the program. “He has actively lobbied the legislature and governor’s office on [the law] that would benefit the colleges at the same time he is running board meetings on the topic.”

As an example of its curriculum, the school says students taking the class Survey of American History “will be able to analyze the varied political, economic, religious, and cultural achievements of America in light of biblical truth,” according to an online course description.

Payment for a high school student taking such classes is deducted directly from money provided by the state to that student’s school district.

South Carolina GOPer: Public Schools Leading To 'Holocaust In Our Churches' With Teachings On 'Evolutionism' & Homosexuality

A GOP candidate for lieutenant governor in South Carolina said yesterday that public schools are pushing a “silent holocaust” in churches by supposedly turning young people away from Christianity.

Ray Moore has made criticism of public schools a centerpiece of his campaign, urging the state to replace public schools with an education system led by “churches, families, and private association” and warning that they turn students, like a young Hillary Clinton, into anti-Christian “janissaries.”

Speaking yesterday with conservative talk show host Steve Deace, Moore warned that public schools are “wrecking” Christian families.

Moore claimed that studies show that “80 percent of Southern Baptists youths are leaving the church and abandoning the Christian faith, and we think all of this is pretty much attributable to government schooling.”

“We think the main culprit is public schooling,” he said. “So there’s a holocaust, a silent holocaust going on in our evangelical churches.”

He also attacked the “viruses” of same-sex marriage and abortion rights:

The pastors go on and on oblivious like nothing is happening and they’re out there preaching against same-sex marriage and abortion, so why is same-sex marriage and abortion and all of these viruses latching on to our society so readily? And we think part of it is government-sponsored education where they’re thoroughly and aggressively teaching socialism, humanism; turning their hearts away from Christ; teaching them evolutionism; Common Core has pervaded the system even in the so-called Bible Belt South; we have sex education apart from covenant marriages being taught and homosexuality is being taught in the Bible Belt as well as the Northeast and the far-west. So the system is thoroughly handed over to egregious and harmful teachings, and it’s just wrecking and causing havoc in our churches and in our family.

Back in 2007, Moore criticized California public schools after the state enacted new laws protecting LGBT students: “The public school system is a monster, “but this [the new laws] may be the most egregious thing they’ve done.”

His group sent out a statement alleging that California was “mandating that public school children be indoctrinated to accept as normal the homosexual lifestyle and other forms of sexual deviancy” and warning that “California’s schools are now promoting behaviors and lifestyles that are physically and spiritually dangerous for children.”

In a 2012 radio interview, while promoting the movie “IndoctriNation: Public Schools and the Decline of Christianity in America,” Moore railed against homosexuality:

We can look at the rise of the aggressive homosexual movement in our country, I’m old enough to remember it was as late as 1968 that it was pretty much an underground movement but it has just swept through our culture in a way now that Christians are on the defensive, marriage is under attack, they are teaching it to our children in the schools. We are looking at this and incredulously saying ‘how could this happen,’ this is another example of a tipping point in a bad direction, the rise of the modern, aggressive, homosexual movement and its attack on marriage.



In some of the states now they’re mandating the instruction of homosexuality and transgender education in the schools: California, some of the New England schools. It’s just incredible what’s happening and parents just sit there and think if they complain that they’ll listen. They won’t and the best way to deal with it is to get the kids out.

Right Wing Targets 'Moral Mondays' Organizer

Right-wing groups and media are waging a concerted attack on Rev. William Barber, organizer of this weekend’s “Moral March” in Raleigh, North Carolina.

North Carolina’s politics lurched to the far right after multimillionaire Art Pope poured money into a far-right takeover of the state government.  A tidal wave of horrible legislation last year attacked voting rights, public education, health care, and unemployment insurance -- and raising taxes on poor families to give tax breaks to a handful of the state’s wealthiest people. Basically, if you want to see what unfettered Tea Party governance looks like, look at North Carolina.

In response, a huge statewide coalition led by Barber, the president of the state NAACP, organized “Moral Mondays” protests to draw attention to the legislature’s extremism. State GOP officials initially dismissed the movement, with one legislator deriding “Moron Mondays” and others blaming the protests on “outside agitators.” But the protests grew to thousands, with more than 900 people, the vast majority of them from North Carolina, being arrested.

The progressive Forward Together coalition drew tens of thousands of people to Raleigh this weekend for a “Moral March,” which kicked off a year of organizing and voter engagement. This progressive mobilization has generated excitement among progressive activists nationally, and has made Barber a target of the right wing.

In recent weeks, Fox News hosts Sean Hannity and Greta Van Susteren have invited Sen. Tim Scott, Allen West, and Star Parker – all right-wing African Americans – to attack Barber for comments he made suggesting  that Scott is a ventriloquist dummy for the Tea Party.

In the days leading up to Saturday’s march, the state’s Republican Chairman Claude Pope slammed Barber for using "inflammatory and offensive" rhetoric. And Tami Fitzgerald from the North Carolina Values Coalition snarked, “The so-called Moral March on Raleigh is anything but moral. It is spearheaded by groups that support abortion and homosexual marriage.” I am not aware that Fitzgerald has raised moral objections to right-wing state officials’ attacks on poor families’ access to health care.

At a press conference after the March, Tea Party activist David Webb, a Fox and Breitbart contributor, badgered Barber about whether he owed Scott and other black conservatives an apology. No apology was forthcoming. The unruffled Barber said his job and calling are “to speak the truth about public policies, policies that hurt millions of people.” 

Barber said his critique was based on policy, not personality. “While some people may choose to get caught up on a metaphor,” Barber said, “the real indignation and upsetness should be over the regressive agenda” and over policies that are causing “real-life suffering and death.”

If folk want to get upset, get upset over the denying of Medicaid expansion, get upset over voting to reject unemployment benefits for laid off workers who are Republican, who are Democrat, who are black, who are white. Get upset over reduced access to public education and funding of it….and get upset over the attacks to turn back voting rights that were won through blood, sweat and tears.”

 

The Problem with 'School Choice' Week: What's Behind the Bright Yellow Banner

“School choice” will be celebrated this week at thousands of events across the country, with speakers talking about empowered parents and educational excellence.  It will probably be a public relations bonanza for the “school choice” movement.  But here’s the problem: the bright yellow banner of National School Choice Week is designed to distract attention from the least appealing and most dangerous aspects of that movement -- anti-government ideologues, privatization profiteers, and religious fundamentalists eager to get their hands on public education dollars.

Let’s back up a bit.

Education policy is a vast, complicated, and hotly contested arena. Terms like “education reform” and “school choice” sound good, but they are so broad as to be almost meaningless. They can be applied to genuine efforts to strengthen teaching and educational opportunity as well as cynical schemes to destroy public employee unions and dismantle public education altogether.

In particular, “school choice” encompasses a huge array of education policies, from public school charter and magnet schools to taxpayer-funded for-profit cyberschools and homeschooling.  Even a seemingly specific term like “charter schools” cloaks a more complex reality that ranges from innovation labs co-located in public schools to for-profit chain operations.  

If you believe that public education is an important democratic institution, and you think education policy should be aimed at giving every child the opportunity to attend a quality public school, these policies don’t all look alike. They don’t all have the same impact on public schools, or the same levels of public accountability.

But the folks at National School Choice Week would like you not to think about that.  Here’s Andrew Campanella, president of National School Choice Week, in a January 2 column:

To individual parents – “school choice” is not just about charter schools, or private schools, or traditional public or magnet schools, or online learning and homeschooling. It’s about having a choice of all of these options, being able to make a choice, and selecting the learning environments that are right for their individual children. When school choice organizations work together, the collective messaging of these partnerships and this broad, familiar definition of school choice resonates with families.

He acknowledges that people have different ideas about what school choice means: “It goes without saying that a charter school association and a private school choice group might not agree on every policy issue, or that a homeschooling organization and a magnet school consortium will not always find common ground,” he says, but we can all come together on “the basics.”

The problem with this “collective messaging” approach is that it hides the anti-public-education agenda of some “reformers.” Celebrating “school choice” across the board lends credibility to organizations pushing for destructive policies that are not at all popular with the American public. In spite of decades of right-wing-funded attacks on public education, for example, Americans oppose privatization plans  like vouchers that transfer public education funds to private schools.

Self-proclaimed reformers often dismiss concerns about privatization as a “red herring.” But you can’t embrace the Milton Friedman Foundation as a partner and then pretend that privatization is only an imaginary threat dreamed up by teachers unions.  Friedman has an explicit goal of getting rid of public schools altogether; they see programs like vouchers for poor kids as a tactical stepping stone toward that ultimate goal.

Others view the huge amount of money we collectively spend on educating children as a source of cash. One of the sponsors of National School Choice Week is K12, a member of the right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council and a company the New York Times has described as “the biggest player in the online-school business,” one “that tries to squeeze profits from public school dollars by raising enrollment, increasing teacher workload, and lowering standards.”  In September 2013, a hedge fund manager betting that the company’s model was unsustainable said that “K 12’s aggressive student recruitment has led to dismal academic results by students and sky-high dropout rates, in some cases more than 50% annually.” And yet Executive Chairman Nathaniel Davis was paid more than $9.5 million last year; Morningstar reports that K12’s compensation to top executives went from 8.89 million in 2011 to 10.89 million in 2012 to 21.37 million in 2013. According to Sourcewatch, $730.0 million of the $848.2 million K12 earned last year came from its “managed public schools” – in other words, taxpayers.

For-profit schools that are doing a lousy job can be protected by the huge amounts of money they spend lobbying in state legislatures. A November 2011 investigation by Lee Fang for The Nation reported that White Hat Management, which runs both traditional and virtual charter schools, had become Ohio’s second-largest GOP donor; the company’s success rate under No Child Left Behind was 2 percent, compared to 54.9% for traditional schools and 30 percent for “virtual schools” run by nonprofits.

Publicly funded vouchers to pay for private schools have been rejected each time they have come before voters, and there is scant evidence that the voucher programs that are operational produce better academic outcomes.  But they are still a cherished goal of anti-government ideologues and operators of for-profit and religious schools.  One of the biggest “school choice” advocates among the country’s governors is Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal, who has embarked on a grand privatization plan grounded in school vouchers, many of which have been used to send students to religious schools with questionable curricula and substandard academic achievement.  Data released by the state in November indicated that almost half of the vouchers were being used at schools that scored a D or F on the state’s rating scale.

There are unquestionably well-intentioned people in the education reform movement, some of whom will be participating in National School Choice Week activities. There are people of all political persuasions eager to find ways to give students a better education, and that includes teachers, administrators, and school board members – people who are collectively dismissed as “the blob” by some “reformers.”

People of good faith can and do disagree about the best way to strengthen teaching, hold schools accountable, reduce the devastating impact of poverty, and more.  But people who are genuinely seeking ways to strengthen public education and make schools better for all children should think twice about making common cause with organizations who see public education as something to be dismantled, and with companies whose bottom line is measured not in student achievement but in the profit margins demanded by their investors.

Tony Perkins' Scary Back-to-School Message

The fear-mongering in the Family Research Council’s latest mailing starts on the envelope:  “Beginning THIS MONTH…they don’t want any American child to escape. Read how we can STOP them.”

“They” turns out to be “government-run schools” and the “radical” teachers that infest them.

If a foreign enemy had plotted to infiltrate America, I’m not sure an army of undercover subversives could have done more damage than our government-run schools….

Leftists don’t want a single American child to escape their thought control.  And they are crowding out true education.

Of course, Perkins has a skewed idea about what a “true education” includes. He complains that America used to be the tops in science – after all we put a man on the moon. But not any more:

Today’s science classes often feature big-government political propaganda, taking time and focus away from true science. Not to mention attacks on the Bible and arrogant censoring of any theories like intelligent design that challenge their Darwinism.

Yes, nothing will boost American students’ science scores faster than a little the-universe-is-6000-years-old Creationism. Perkins doesn’t say exactly what big-government propaganda he’s talking about. Evolution? Astronomy? Climate change?

Even worse, says Perkins, “the federal government has endorsed and sponsored an ‘anti-bullying program’ created and run by Dan Savage, a radical homosexual activist…” Perkins thinks sex education is all about promoting promiscuity and homosexual behavior. “This obsession with liberal sex ‘education’ shows how the minds and souls of our young people are being deliberately sabotaged.”

Accompanying Perkins’ letter is a “Protect America’s Children Survey” which asks whether their local schools are experiencing a range of problems, including “Positive portrayals of homosexuality or negative portrayals of those who don’t affirm homosexuality,” “Not enough teaching of the Christian roots of America,” “Absence of presentation of intelligent design theory,” and “Not enough teaching on the virtues of limited government and free enterprise.”

There is hope, says Perkins, bragging that he was able to “assist” Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal in passing “one of the most family-friendly school choice laws in America.” Jindal’s privatization scheme has resulted in public money being diverted into often  unaccountable schools wasting taxpayer dollars and teaching Religious Right curricula – no wonder Perkins loves it. 

'Choice' School Accountability in the Eye of the Beholder – or Big Donor

Right-wing political strategists have invested huge sums in recent decades to undermine public support for public schools.

Bradlee Dean: Public Schools Evil, Obama Emulating Mao

Right-wing rock musician and radio host Bradlee Dean, a Michele Bachmann ally, was part of a panel on the Millennial generation at Liberty Counsel’s recent Awakening conference. Dean’s You Can Run But You Can’t Hide ministry, designated an anti-gay hate group last year by the Southern Poverty Law Center, works to bring Dean’s right-wing-values presentations into public schools.

Dean – who has suggested that the federal government was behind the shootings in Sandy Hook, Aurora Springs, and Columbine, along with the Oklahoma City bombing and 9-11 – not surprisingly pushed conspiracy theories about public education, including the notion that the rigorous International Baccalaureate program is part of a global scheme to disarm Americans and indoctrinate students in a homosexual agenda.

During the Awakening panel, Dean ranted that public school students know nothing about the Constitution and said that Christian parents have no excuse for having their children in public schools. He cited the Common Core, a curriculum standard developed by state education officials, as evidence that President Obama is acting like Mao Tse-Tung. He said Supreme Court rulings on church-state issues had opened the door to Satanism.   Some excerpts:

“In 1962, said we don’t want prayer, and we don’t want the Ten Commandments in 1980, guess what you did, you just opened the door to Satanism, and call it for what it is....

You can’t justify having your kid in a public school. You can’t. You can’t do it. [Other panelist: “Unless you hate ‘em”]. Unless you hate ‘em, that’s exactly right. No, guys, just hang on, there’s nothing funny about this. Here, let me tell you this, this is how funny it is, guys.  In public schools right now they’re teaching your kids, for those that didn’t know, International Baccalaureate. For those that didn’t know, it started in 1968 under a global educational scheme called International Baccalaureate. They’re teaching your kids to disarm, they’re teaching your kids to accept homosexuality, homosexual marriage, which has never been in the history of mankind. By the way, gay marriage and homosexuality? It’s only there to take away your sovereignty.  So for those that want to sit there and play games with the homosexual community, let me tell you something: they ain’t playing….

They’re teaching No Child Left Behind. Now they’re teaching something called Common Core. Folks, this president is emulating dictators. Do you not understand that he is not playing games? If you look at Mao Tse-tung, this boy is emulating Mao Tse-tung to a T. You know what Mao Tse-tung did, he went to the younger generation, he overthrew the Republic of China to implement what? Democracy. Who is the last president that actually acknowledged that we were a republic? Reagan. Every president since has continuously inundated the next generation with the fact that we are a democracy. That is dangerous, guys.”

Dean, who last year was ordered to pay attorney fees in an unsuccessful-to-date $50 million lawsuit against MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow and the Minnesota Independent’s Andy Birkey, earlier this year threatened a defamation suit against Wonkette.

Right-Wing Voucher Push Undermines Public Education & Constitution

Religious Right leaders and anti-government ideologues have shared a decades-long dream: to dismantle public education through a system of vouchers that would divert taxpayer funds out of public schools and into religious schools and other private academies.  For some, privatizing education is primarily a religious or ideological project. For others, the billions of dollars that flow through public schools is a tempting source of cash. For some it’s both.  Whatever the incentive, voucher proponents are finding success.  A renewed push for the creation and expansion of voucher and voucher-like schemes is contributing to a disturbing rise in public education dollars being diverted to schools that face little to no oversight or public accountability and teach religious dogma at the expense of science.

Most recently, on February 28, the Colorado Court of Appeals ruled that Douglas County’s voucher program – labeled a “Choice Scholarship Program” in accord with the messaging tactics of Republican spinmeister Frank Luntz – does not violate the state Constitution’s explicit prohibitions against public funding for religious education, even though 18 of the county’s 23 “private partner” schools are religious.  As reported by the Associated Press, dissenting Colorado Court of Appeals Judge Steve Bernard wrote, "In my view,[the Colorado Constitution] prohibits public school districts from channeling public money to private religious schools. I think that the Choice Scholarship Program is a pipeline that violates this direct and clear constitutional command." 

The ACLU and Americans United for Separation of Church and State say they will appeal to the state Supreme Court.  Heather L. Weaver, staff attorney for the ACLU Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief said “Public education funds should be used to help improve our public schools, not to promote religion in violation of the state constitution.”  Unfortunately, the Colorado case is not the first in which courts have been willing to go along with voucher plans.  In 2011, in a 5-4 ruling, the conservative U.S. Supreme Court majority allowed an Arizona tax-credit / voucher program to stand while weakening the ability of citizens to challenge programs that divert public funds for religious purposes.

State legislators and their corporate backers in the American Legislative Exchange Council have pushed similar voucher-like tax breaks in other states, often employing the language of “choice” and “options” to divert public attention from the intent and effect of these schemes.  After conservative victories in state elections in 2010, governors and legislators in many states, including Pennsylvania, Indiana, and Florida, pushed to create or expand programs that divert public education dollars into religious schools and other private academies.

Among the most aggressive is Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who is basically pushing an effort to privatize public education in his state.  He has instituted a massive voucher program grounded in the “model legislation” pushed by ALEC, which honored Jindal in 2011 with its Thomas Jefferson Freedom Award.  Think Progress notes that Jindal’s plan will divert huge sums from public schools:  “Since the public schools will lose commensurate funding every time one of their students opt for a voucher, the state’s public school system could by some estimates lose up to $3.3 billion annually once the program is fully implemented. “

Ed Kilgore noted last summer in Washington Monthly:

In heading his state in the direction of universally available vouchers rationalized by public school failure, Jindal is not, of course, holding any of the private school beneficiaries accountable for results, or for common curricula, or, it appears, for much of anything. A big chunk of the money already out there is being snapped up by conservative evangelical schools with exotic and hardly public-minded curricular offerings, with the theory being that any public oversight would interfere with the accountability provided by “the market.” So if you want your kid to attend, at public expense, the Christian Nationalist Academy for Servant-Leader Boys & Fecund Submissive Girls, that’s okay by Bobby.

Lack of accountability is a real concern.  While proponents of voucher programs paint a picture of a poor student being given a chance to attend an elite private academy, most of those schools have few openings, meaning that the “choice” offered to many students and parents is something far different, including fly-by-night schools with little track record of their own.  According to the Louisiana Budget Project,

Louisiana requires almost no accountability from voucher schools....While voucher students are required to take the same assessment tests as public school students, there are no penalties for private schools if they fail to measure up to their public counterparts. In fact, Gov. Jindal vetoed language in a 2011 appropriations bill that would have removed participating schools if their students’ scores lagged those in the lowest performing schools in the Recovery School District, which incorporates most New Orleans public schools.

So if public schools have lousy test scores, they're failures and their students all get vouchers. But if the private schools have lousy test scores, then....nothing. Presumably the magic of the free market will fix them up.

In June 2011, an investigation by Miami New Times found a breathtaking lack of oversight and accountability in Florida’s voucher program for disabled students, likening it to “a perverse science experiment, using disabled school kids as lab rats.”

In addition to defunding public schools at the expense of unaccountable private schools, voucher programs end up using tax dollars to promote sectarian religious education and proselytizing. 

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops describes Catholic schools as central to the church’s “New Evangelization.”   And in Louisiana and elsewhere, tax dollars are being used to support schools that teach young-earth creationism, revisionist U.S. history published by fundamentalist Bob Jones University, and other religious dogma applied to civics, politics, and literature. 

The Agenda Behind the Voucher Agenda

During “National School Choice Week,” which ran from January 27 to February 3, the Heritage Foundation published a special report, “Choosing to Succeed,” which included a call for abandoning the “myth” and “relic” of the common school.  In January, Americans for Prosperity published a report blaming the federal government for the failure of education reform and promoting vouchers and voucher-like tax schemes, such as Pennsylvania’s “Education Improvement Tax Credit.” 

On February 5, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor gave a speech at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, where he argued that education funds should follow students whether they “choose” public, private, or charter schools. He asserted, “One of our priorities this year will be to move heaven and earth to fix our education system for the most vulnerable.”  It is important to understand that targeted voucher programs that allow students from poor families, children with disabilities or students in underperforming schools to attend private schools that will accept them are not the ultimate goal of school privatizers. They are a tactical means to a much larger strategic end, which is the end of public education altogether, as pushed by David Koch in his run for the White House in 1980. As Milton Friedman, intellectual godfather of the movement, said “Vouchers are not an end in themselves; they are a means to make a transition from a government to a free-market system.”

In a May 2011 article, researcher Rachel Tabachnik reviewed the history and financing of the school privatization movement. Its financial backers have been pouring millions of dollars into state politics for the past decade in order to build legislatures more to their liking.  Right-wing donors such as Betsy DeVos and the Walton Foundation funnel money through groups with media-friendly names like All Children Matter, its successor the American Federation for Children, and AFC-affiliated state-level political action committees like Students First, which raised more than $6 million for the 2010 election cycle in Pennsylvania.

“Like most other conservatives and libertarians, we see vouchers as a major step toward the complete privatization of schooling,” wrote Heartland Institute President Joseph Bast in 1997. “In fact, after careful study, we have come to the conclusion that they are the only way to dismantle the current socialist regime.” Heartland has received significant funding from right-wing foundations over the years, including the Charles Koch Foundation.

Another major ideological target is public employee unions, and teachers unions in particular.  A 2011 New York Times story about FreedomWorks’ lobbying for a Pennsylvania voucher program noted, “FreedomWorks is pushing anti-union legislation in several states, and saw the school choice legislation as part of that larger battle.”

School vouchers are just one part of the immensely complicated arena of education policy.  A wide array of strategies and policy proposals is often confusingly lumped together under the banner of “education reform” or “school choice,” terms that can encompass everything from curricula, student testing and teacher evaluation, charter and cyber-charter schools and more.  Some strategies may identify effective reforms that can be replicated and used to strengthen public schools and improve educational opportunity.  Others, like vouchers, are designed to weaken or dismantle public education altogether.

As parents, educators, and activists evaluate various education reform proposals, it is worth keeping in mind the question posed  by Stan Karp, in the Spring 2011 edition of Rethinking Schools, when he said that what is ultimately at stake in the school reform debate is “whether the right to a free public education for all children is going to survive as a fundamental democratic promise in our society, and whether the schools and districts needed to provide it are going to survive as public institutions, collectively owned and democratically managed – however imperfectly – by all of us as citizens. Or will they be privatized and commercialized by the corporate interests that increasingly dominate all aspects of our society?”

Note: this is the first in a series of posts about right-wing efforts to undermine public education, often in the name of education reform.

See also: Predatory Privatization, a 2012 Right Wing Watch In Focus report; and  Voucher Veneer: The Deeper Agenda to Privatize Public Education, a 2003 report from People For the American Way Foundation.

 

 

The Perils of Teaching the Bible in Public Schools

Rob Boston at Americans United notes that the Arkansas House just voted to require the state’s Education Board to approve elective classes about the Bible if they meet appropriate standards.  The Supreme Court has said the Bible may be taught about in public schools when “presented objectively as part of a secular program of education.”

But teaching about the Bible without teaching it religiously is not an easy thing to do. It requires carefully designed curricula, well-intentioned and well-trained educators, and a commitment to meaningful oversight.  People For the American Way was part of a religiously and politically diverse group of organizations that worked together to produce the 1999 publication The Bible in Public Schools, a First Amendment Guide. That guide emphasized that how any such course is taught will determine whether it passes constitutional muster:

When teaching about the Bible in a public school, teachers must understand the important distinction between advocacy, indoctrination, proselytizing, and the practice of religion – which is unconstitutional – and teaching about religion that is objective, nonjudgmental, academic, neutral, balanced, and fair – which is constitutional.

But that’s not how if often works in practice. In 2000, People For the American Way Foundation published a scathing expose, The Good Book Taught Wrong: Bible History Classes in Florida Public Schools. The PFAW Foundation investigation found that “Bible History” classes were often being taught more like Christian Sunday School classes from a sectarian, Protestant perspective. Bible stories were treated as literal history. Among lessons and exam questions asked of students:

  • "If you had a Jewish friend who wanted to know if Jesus might be the expectant [sic] Messiah, which book [of the Gospels] would you give him?"
  • "Compose an explanation of who Jesus is for someone who has never heard of Him."  
  • "Why is it hard for a non-Christian to understand things about God?"
  • "What is Jesus Christ's relationship to God, to creation, and to you?"
  • "Who, according to Jesus, is the father of the Jews? The devil."

That expose led Florida officials to yank those classes and revamp the curricula.

But more than a decade later, similar problems persist, as the Texas Freedom Network documented in a January report that found classes designed more to evangelize students to a literalist, fundamentalist view of the Bible rather than to teach about its role in literature and history. Included in the lesson plans examined by TFN were characterizations of Judaism as a flawed and incomplete religion, Christian-nation approaches to US history, and material “explaining” racial origins via the sons of Noah.

Are Arkansas legislators and education officials prepared to invest in the development of curricula, the training of educators, and meaningful oversight into how the classes are taught?

Public Schools Denounced at Tea Party Rally in Tampa, Blamed for Election of Barack Obama

Conservative talk show host Neal Boortz, speaking at yesterday’s Unity Rally 2012 in Tampa ahead of the Republican National Convention, denounced public schools as “government schools” that are “forced upon us.” Boortz blamed “100 years of government education” for bringing America “to the point that a man like Barack Obama could be sworn in as president of the United States.”

Boortz directed the crowd to change the way they speak about public schools – calling them “government schools” instead. He also called on the audience to “preach school choice,” by which meant efforts to defund public schools and provide taxpayer dollars for religious and private schools and homeschooling.

A number of public officials spoke at the rally, including Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and Reps. Jason Chaffetz and Michele Bachmann. Kleefisch and Chaffetz both followed Boortz but neither stood up for public schools. One has to wonder if they, like Boortz, also hate public education:
 
Let me change your language on two things. […]
 
They are not public schools, they are government schools. They are owned by, staffed by, operated by and forced upon by the government.
 
And, ladies and gentlemen, it is 100 years of government education that led us to the point that a man like Barack Obama could be sworn in as president of the United States.
 
So, wherever you are, preach school choice.

 

Santorum Knocks Public Schools, But Sticks Taxpayers for Bill for Homeschooling

Rick Santorum raised eyebrows last week for making claims that he has been making for years, including his criticism of public schools. As the Los Angeles Times reported, Santorum called public schools “anachronistic” and compared them to factories:

In his remarks to the Ohio Christian Alliance, however, Santorum went further, seeming to attack the very idea of public education.

In the nation’s past, he said, “Most presidents homeschooled their children in the White House.…

Parents educated their children because it was their responsibility.”

“Yes, the government can help,” he continued, “but the idea that the federal government should be running schools, frankly much less that the state government should be running schools, is anachronistic.”

He said it is an artifact of the Industrial Revolution, “when people came off the farms where they did homeschool or had a little neighborhood school, and into these big factories … called public schools.”

While industry has evolved, public schools remain stuck in the factory era, he said, “back in the age of Henry Ford. You get what we give you. One color, two models. It wouldn’t work for Henry Ford today, and it won’t work for America today.

Santorum has long opposed public education and in his 2005 book It Takes a Family marveled how “so many kids turn out to be fairly normal, considering the weird socialization they get in public schools.” In fact, public schools are consistently in the crosshairs of Religious Right activists, as seen in this anti-public education film made by Truth in Action Ministries:

While Santorum is an unapologetic opponent of public schools, or as he calls them, “government-run schools,” he has no problem making taxpayers cover the tab for his homeschooling. While a U.S. Senator, Santorum moved his family to Virginia but still stuck Pennsylvania taxpayers with the bill for his decision to have his children attend a cyber-school:

The Republican senator owns a home in Penn Hills, but lives in Leesburg, Va.

Penn Hills School District is paying $38,000 this year for five Santorum children to attend Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School based in Midland, Beaver County. The district has paid an additional $62,000 for his children to attend the school since 2001.



Penn Hills School District, which is required by state law to pay cyber charter tuition costs for students living in the district, is investigating whether Santorum is actually a resident.

A statement issued by Santorum's press office on Tuesday (yesterday) stated he had been in contact with the school district officials and is awaiting questions from them that he will answer to clarify his residency and the education of his children.



Santorum and his wife, Karen Garver Santorum, have owned the house at 111 Stephens Lane since 1997. They pay about $2,000 annually in property taxes to the district.

But records at the Allegheny County Election Office also show that the couple are not the only people claiming the home as their residence.

Bart and Alyssa DeLuca, both 25, are registered voters listed for the same address. They are not related to Penn Hills Mayor Anthony DeLuca or his father, state Rep. Tony DeLuca.

Alyssa, Karen Garver Santorum's niece, registered as a voter living at the Santorum house in September 2000. Then Bart registered with the election office in June 2001 by using the same address.

Barton: America Must Instruct Children In "The Fear Of The Lord"

Today on Believers Voice of Victory, David Barton told televangelist Kenneth Copeland that the only way to rejuvenate America’s education system is to instill in kids the “fear of the Lord.” Barton launched his career as a Religious Right activist with the 1989 booklet What Happened in Education?, in which he concluded that a decline in SAT scores was a result of the end of school prayer, and that only Christian teachings in schools could bring SAT scores back up. Barton explained to Copeland, a Prosperity Gospel preacher, what that instilling the “fear of the Lord” in children would require establishing the Bible as the basis of all school curricula:

Barton: This shows you what public education is supposed to look like, the educational system was supposed to come—and it did, these guys started the first public schools in 1642 and cited Bible verses on why they were doing it, they also cited Bible verses on the courses they taught and the way they taught the courses. Now most Christians today, ‘Well we got government schools that’s the way it was supposed to be.’ Really? Show me in the Bible where government’s supposed to do the education, show me how that works, show me what courses government’s supposed to be teaching. See we can’t do that anymore, we don’t use the—we’ve been conformed to the culture, we’ve had public schools for so long that we think that’s the way it is.

Copeland: So now we’ve done then, we’ve gone, into our own—

Barton: Dark ages.



Barton: This book right here, every Bible says, in Proverbs 1:7, ‘The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.’ Now I don’t know why today we think, ‘oh I’m going to know more about the Lord if I fear God,’ we’ve made the fear of the Lord the beginning of spiritual knowledge. He didn’t say that, He said the fear of the Lord’s the beginning of knowledge. If you want education you better include the fear of God, if you want to be a good scientist you better include the fear of God, if you want to be a good musician—1962, ’63, the U.S. Supreme Court in three decisions said no more fear of God in education, we want education to be secular. All right, that’s a theological issue. How’s that working out? In 1962, ’63, America was number one in the world in literacy, we are now number sixty-five in the world in literacy. We don’t have the fear of the Lord, because guess what, we don’t have knowledge, it goes down.

WallBuilders Enlists Christopher Columbus & Reconstructionist Eidsmoe in Christian Nation Crusade

David Barton’s WallBuilders is tireless in pushing its “Christian nation” version of American history.   Today it encourages its supporters to “Celebrate Columbus Day!” and to read John Eidsmoe’s Columbus and Cortez: Conquerors for Christ.  

Eidsmoe is the Christian Reconstructionist cited by Michele Bachmann as her mentor and major influence.  He is also a colleague of Roy Moore, who lost his job as Chief Justice of Alabama’s Supreme Court when he refused to obey federal court orders to remove a Ten Commandments memorial he had installed in the state courthouse.

As we have reported, Eidsmoe believes that feminists “violate the normal order” that God put in place for husbands to head households, that “homosexuality invites the judgment of God upon all of society,” that gays will turn the military into a “cesspool of immorality,” and that public education is brainwashing students to believe in secularism and evolution.  Ryan Lizza recently reported that Eidsmoe was uninvited from a Tea Party event last year after addressing an event in Alabama commemorating Secession Day and telling an interviewer that it was the state’s “constitutional right to secede,” and that “Jefferson Davis and John C. Calhoun understood the Constitution better than did Abraham Lincoln and Daniel Webster.”

Eidsmoe’s book on Columbus has an introduction by Peter Marshall, another “Christian Nation” advocate who served with Wallbuilders’ founder David Barton as an “expert” to Religious Right members of the Texas Board of Education pushing massive revisions to social science textbooks.  Marshall writes:

In his customary careful and thorough manner, John Eidsmoe has pierced through the obfuscating fog of twentieth-century humanist bias and judgments that have obscured the truth about two of the most controversial figures in American history, Christopher Columbus and Hernando Cortez. Using earlier sources, he has presented us with a well-researched, even-handed, and fair treatment of both their Christian motives for their incredible exploits, and the very real mistakes they made .This is a valuable contribution toward restoring a true Christian perspective on our American past.

WallBuilders’ Columbus Day email celebrates Columbus’ belief that he was being led by the Holy Spirit and complains that modern scholarship has denigrated Columbus specifically because of his religious motivation:

It is especially because of Columbus’ religious motivations and convictions that today he has become a villain for most modern educators and writers, who regularly attack and condemn him.

That echoes Eidsmoe’s book, which claims, “A scholarly desire to correct the historical record is not the primary reason [for modern criticism of Columbus]…No, the attack is directed toward values – biblical values and the Christian civilization that is based on biblical values.”

Eidsmoe writes:

The reason may of us find history boring is that we fail to see the sovereign hand of God at work as history unfolds. The way you look at history depends in large part upon your world view….For the Christian, history is, or should be, the unfolding of God’s plan for the human race. For the Christian, the discovery, exploration and settlement of the Western Hemisphere takes on a whole new dimension of meaning as God works through imperfect vessels like Columbus, Cortez….and others who bring salvation to the inhabitants of the Western world through the knowledge of Jesus Christ.

He decries the effort to “move this nation away from its Christian foundations” in order to “remake America into a secular or pagan society….If the Christian professions of Christopher Columbus and others can be proven insincere, if their deeds can be downplayed and their sins and shortcomings magnified, then this element of America’s Christian past can be discredited and set aside.”

Right Wing Round-Up

Bachmann's Mentor Warns Of Public Education "Brainwashing"

Michele Bachmann regularly speaks about her work in Minnesota to advance homeschooling and charter schools, and she even co-founded a Christian-themed charter school that helped launch her political career. According to the New York Times, “state and local school officials warned the school that it was at risk of losing its charter” for running afoul of code, and Bachmann ultimately had her “children enrolled in private Christian schools.”

Her mentor John Eidsmoe in God & Caesar details the case against public schools that may have influenced Bachmann’s early activism in education issues. Eidsmoe discusses the supposed dangers of the public education system throughout God & Caesar, saying, “The power to educate is the power to control though and shape personality. The power to educate is the power to brainwash.” He even said that America’s stalwart public school system is reminiscent of Nazi Germany, warning “exclusive state control of education is a blueprint for tyranny” (p. 143).

Eidsmoe laments that instead of promoting Christianity, public schools endorse “secular humanism.” He writes that ever since public schools embraced secular humanism, children have been “brainwashed” into supporting evolution, sex education, and moral relativism instead of creationism and conservative Christian teachings.

He calls on Christians to “voice our objections when we see government funds or government facilities being used to promote humanism” (p. 139), since he believes that secular humanism was created by the devil: “When Lucifer rebelled against God, he declared, ‘I will be like the Most High’ (Isaiah 14:14). And, having fallen from heaven, he seduced Eve with the same temptation: ‘Ye shall be as gods’ (Genesis 3:5). The modern humanists offer man the same promise” (p. 132).

Eidsmoe explains the reasons why Christians should challenge the public school system:

As we have seen, Scripture gives parents the right and duty to educate their children. Traditionally, parents have fulfilled this duty with help from the church or synagogue. Within the last century and a half, however, the state has gradually usurped this function. As long as the public schools taught nominally Christian values to their children, many Christians did not object to the state taking over education. Within the past few decades, however, and particularly within the past few years, more and more parents have become concerned that the public schools may be teaching values to their children that place them at odds with their parents.



The Christian parent who believes in special creation may find his children brainwashed by evolutionists. The parent may believe that the source of values is God and his revealed Word, but the child may learn from his teacher that values are relative and that we must discover them for ourselves. The parent may believe that sex is to be confined to marriage, but the school health teacher may teach that premarital sex is okay “if you really care about each other.”

Yes, parents can combat much of this by carefully instructing their children at home, and they should be careful to do so. But why should parents have to support a school system that teaches alien values or compete with the state for their children’s allegiance, perhaps for their children’s very souls? (p. 123)

The Whole Point Of Public Education Is To Make Sure Kids Can Read The Bible

On today's episode of Faith and Freedom Radio, Liberty Counsel's Mat Staver and Shawn Akers discussed the fight over prayer at the Bastrop High School graduation ceremony in Louisiana.

The issue was especially important to Akers, as he graduated from Bastrop High School and so he was outraged by the idea that prayer might be banned from the ceremony ... mainly because the entire purpose of public education is to educate students so that they can read the Bible and learn how to live:

Scott Walker’s Latest Pro-Voucher Gambit Exposes Dishonesty Of The Voucher Movement

Private school voucher advocates and their allies in the so-called “education reform” movement readily talk about the need for rigorous, constant testing along with the application of free market principles to education: reward high-performing schools and teachers and punish bad ones.

Over the last decade, Milwaukee has been a laboratory for private school vouchers, and the results have been poor: numerous studies have shown that vouchers failed to make any difference in student performance. Just like in Washington, DC and Cleveland, private school vouchers in Milwaukee failed to produce the gains their supporters promised as students, with students in the Milwaukee voucher program actually performing worse than comparable public school students.

But now Republican Gov. Scott Walker wants to expand the ineffective voucher program while cutting funds to public schools. And so much for the emphasis on testing -- voucher students will now be exempted from the tests that revealed the program’s failure.

The Wausau Daily Herald reports:

Milwaukee’s voucher school program would be expanded under a Republican-backed bill expected to pass the state Assembly on Tuesday.



State Superintendent Tony Evers has questioned expanding the voucher program at the same time Walker is proposing cutting public school aid by more than $800 million over the next two years.



Walker is also proposing eliminating in his budget that voucher students take the same statewide achievement tests that public school students must take.

This year, results were released for the first time comparing public school and voucher students. They showed voucher students lagging behind their peers in public schools.

That’s right, even though voucher students are “lagging behind their peers in public schools,” voucher programs are being rewarded with expansion while public schools are punished with cuts. With little care for accountability and testing, this move by Walker and the Wisconsin GOP demonstrates how the push for private school vouchers is really about the Right’s ideological war against public education.

The pro-voucher American Federation for Children is even launching an ad campaign to defend Wisconsin Republicans facing recall votes, and recently hosted an event where they honored Walker for his voucher advocacy. AFC was founded and funded by Betsy Devos, a Religious Right activist and wife of Dick Devos, the son of the founder of Amway and an unsuccessful Republican candidate for governor of Michigan. Today, AFC is one of the most aggressive pro-voucher groups, and aims to fully privatize public education.

Through their advocacy for private school vouchers, the Devos family merged their anti-union and anti-public school beliefs with their mission to chip away at the separation of church and state. The Devos family is a key benefactor of Religious Right groups across the country, financing major social conservative organizations like Focus on the Family and the Council for National Policy, and provided almost the entire funding for Maggie Gallagher’s Institute for Marriage and Public Policy.

With Scott Walker admitting that the private school voucher movement’s emphasis on testing, results and accountability is hogwash, it is abundantly clear what the real goal is: privatizing public education.

New Reconstrucitonist Documentary Wants Public Schools To "Give Children An Explicitly Christian Education"

Homeschooling activist Colin Gunn is set to release a new documentary in June on the perils of the public education system. Guinn’s film, “IndoctriNation: Public Schools and the Decline of Christianity in America,” features leading Christian Reconstructionists like Gary North, Gary DeMar, Doug Phillips, John Eidsmoe, and Joseph Morecraft along with Ken Ham, champion of the young-Earth creationist movement and the founder of Answers In Genesis and the Creation Museum. According to Gunn, the education system can only be fixed if “every subject taught in school is designed to give glory to God.”

"Everyone knows there is a problem," Gunn says. "The difference is, we ask what the Bible says about education. The issues brought up in Waiting for Superman are not solved in the film. They miss the mark. We are bringing children back to Christ."

The answer to the catastrophe of public education will not come from a government think-tank or a new institution, but rather from within the faithful family units that remain at the center of our nation's principles, Gunn stated.



While a majority of the conversation about education focuses on how to improve the public school system by spending more tax dollars, hiring more unqualified teachers, writing more slanted curriculum, Gunn's solution is to give children an explicitly Christian education to ensure that they are taught that God is the center of all things. "There is a deep philosophical issue in education. Who is sovereign and who will that child serve? Math, science, social studies -- every subject taught in school is designed to give glory to God," Gunn concluded.

Watch the trailer here:

 

Pro-Voucher Group Working Against Recall of Union-Busting Wisconsin Republicans

An organization that backs private school vouchers is campaigning against the recall of the eight Republican Wisconsin senators who backed Governor Scott Walker’s anti-union legislation. The so-called American Federation for Children (AFC) is an ardent supporter of the voucher scheme in Milwaukee, the unsuccessful voucher program which Walker and his GOP allies want to export to other parts of the state as part of bolstering the Republicans’ attacks on public schools and teachers.

Listen to their robocall defending GOP Senator Sheila Harsdorf:

At the same time that Walker and the Republicans proposed a massive $834 million cut to public schools, endangering the state’s esteemed public education system, they seek to spend more taxpayer money on a wasteful voucher program that has been unable to improve the education of Milwaukee students. A comprehensive study in 2009 found “no overall statistically significant difference between [voucher school] and [public school] student achievement growth in either math or reading one year after they were carefully matched to each other,” and that fourth graders in the voucher program were actually performing worse than comparable public school students.

While the private school voucher scheme did nothing to improve education, it did funnel taxpayer dollars to religious schools: of the 120 schools receiving vouchers examined in the study, 95 were religious and 7 operate within a religious tradition.

Renowned education scholar Diane Ravitch, once a proponent of the so-called “school choice” movement, told OnMilwaukee.com that the voucher program “has not worked”:

Milwaukee is indeed the nation's laboratory for assessing the value of school choice. The advocates of school choice predicted that academic performance in choice schools would not only soar, but that the competitive pressure would cause achievement in the regular district schools to improve. None of this has happened. The latest studies show that students in voucher schools and in charter schools do not perform any differently from those in the regular public schools.



"Reformers" in Milwaukee have been pursuing strategies that we now know are ineffective. The more time and resources devoted to ineffective strategies, the less attention there is to finding useful improvements. Choice got the support of foundations and business leaders, but it has not worked.

Even the state schools superintendent Tom Evers agreed that “choice schools have proven to be no more effective and in some cases less effective than Milwaukee Public Schools.”

But organizations like the AFC ignore and dismiss the clear findings that the Milwaukee voucher program is a wrongheaded and ill-designed effort to improve education, and instead want to expand the program to more school districts and tear down the public education system. Now, they want to make sure that Republican legislators keep their jobs and continue to support vouchers and bust unions representing public school teachers.

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Public Education Posts Archive

Peter Montgomery, Tuesday 06/24/2014, 4:52pm
North Carolina Lt. Gov. Dan Forest followed Texas Lt. Gov. candidate Dan Patrick to the microphone at the Faith and Freedom Coalition’s 2014 Road to Majority conference. Forest joked about following another “Lieutenant Dan” and said he’d been backstage crossing things out because Patrick was already saying them. Indeed, Forest’s comments about the Constitution being grounded in “biblical truth” echoed Patrick’s Christian-nation address. “My friends,” Forest said, “America is at a great crossroads where it must decide for or... MORE
Peter Montgomery, Monday 06/23/2014, 11:55am
One of Ralph Reed’s most infamous statements — “I want to be invisible. I do guerilla warfare…You don't know it's over until you're in a body bag” — came in an era of school board takeovers by stealth Religious Right candidates. But stealth is so 1990s. At the Road to Majority conference sponsored by Reed’s Faith and Freedom coalition last weekend, a member of the Ohio state board of education openly called on conservative Christians to take over the educational system and return it to a foundation of “biblical truth.” Mark... MORE
Brian Tashman, Friday 05/09/2014, 3:10pm
A GOP candidate for lieutenant governor in South Carolina said yesterday that public schools are pushing a “silent holocaust” in churches by supposedly turning young people away from Christianity. Ray Moore has made criticism of public schools a centerpiece of his campaign, urging the state to replace public schools with an education system led by “churches, families, and private association” and warning that they turn students, like a young Hillary Clinton, into anti-Christian “janissaries.” Speaking yesterday with conservative talk show host Steve Deace,... MORE
Peter Montgomery, Monday 02/10/2014, 10:33am
Right-wing groups and media are waging a concerted attack on Rev. William Barber, organizer of this weekend’s “Moral March” in Raleigh, North Carolina. North Carolina’s politics lurched to the far right after multimillionaire Art Pope poured money into a far-right takeover of the state government.  A tidal wave of horrible legislation last year attacked voting rights, public education, health care, and unemployment insurance -- and raising taxes on poor families to give tax breaks to a handful of the state’s wealthiest people. Basically, if you want to see... MORE
Peter Montgomery, Tuesday 01/28/2014, 10:49am
“School choice” will be celebrated this week at thousands of events across the country, with speakers talking about empowered parents and educational excellence.  It will probably be a public relations bonanza for the “school choice” movement.  But here’s the problem: the bright yellow banner of National School Choice Week is designed to distract attention from the least appealing and most dangerous aspects of that movement -- anti-government ideologues, privatization profiteers, and religious fundamentalists eager to get their hands on public education... MORE
Peter Montgomery, Wednesday 08/07/2013, 1:17pm
The fear-mongering in the Family Research Council’s latest mailing starts on the envelope:  “Beginning THIS MONTH…they don’t want any American child to escape. Read how we can STOP them.” “They” turns out to be “government-run schools” and the “radical” teachers that infest them. If a foreign enemy had plotted to infiltrate America, I’m not sure an army of undercover subversives could have done more damage than our government-run schools…. Leftists don’t want a single American child to escape their... MORE
Peter Montgomery, Tuesday 07/30/2013, 3:27pm
Right-wing political strategists have invested huge sums in recent decades to undermine public support for public schools. MORE