If At First You Don't Succeed, Try, Try, Try, Try, Try, Try, Try Again
DonByrd printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Thu Feb 07, 2008 at 12:31:09 PM EST
If there is one thing we should have learned from the Religious Right by now, it's that they never give up. Consistent defeat is no deterrent, perhaps just the opposite. So, I'm not too surprised that - despite it never having gotten past a single congressional committee - President Bush has proposed a federal school voucher program for the eighth straight year. $300 million made it into his budget for something called "Pell Grants for Kids", dressing up the same old bad idea with a snappy new name, and a scary rationale.
There are lots of reasons to oppose school voucher schemes. You know them well. For starters, they don't work. Contrary to the hype, taxpayer-funded private schools do not outperform public schools. Neither do Christian schools. Voucher schools are notoriously unaccountable, in terms of standards, content, and school condition. And, as Think Progress noted, vouchers "drain resources from public schools". When faced with the facts, voters across the country - including even a conservative state like Utah in November - soundly defeat voucher initiatives.

But another important reason is a church-state concern. We shouldn't be sending taxpayer money to support religious institutions, especially when we offer a free, public, secular system. So I was surprised - even a cynic like me - to read one of the White House's primary rationales for offering a federal voucher initiative yet again. (my emphasis)

Despite their educational successes, urban faith-based schools are disappearing at an alarming rate.  This is especially troubling for minority students.  Since 1970, the minority population at Catholic schools, for example, has increased by 250 percent, and the non-Catholic population has increased by more than 500 percent. Yet these important institutions are disappearing for financial reasons.  From 1996 to 2004, nearly 1,400 urban inner city faith-based schools closed

Of all the stated reasons I've heard to offer school vouchers, propping up religious schools has got to be the worst. Religious institutions should make their own case for being, and should be supported by like-minded believers, not by taxpayer money. If they are "disappearing", that is a concern to be addressed by the church, not by the government.

We certainly don't want the mechanisms of the state to stand in the way of the church. But, we can't be promoting them either.

If the Bush Administration wants to look into addressing things that are "disappearing at an alarming rate," how about we start with something like living-wage jobs, or actual Pell Grants, which have been systematically devalued by this same administration.




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