Monday, July 2, 2012

Vouchers: Not Just Catholic Schools

One of the most controversial aspects of school voucher proposals is that taxpayer money could be used to send students to private religious schools. The ACLU-types probably fume at this idea. However, we already fund private school vouchers by allowing college students to use federal Pell Grants and federally subsidized student loans at private universities such as the University of Notre Dame and the Catholic University of America. I am a Christian, and I do understand that there are many Catholic and other Christian-based schools that do a terrific job. Since vouchers seem to be an inevitable reality in today's political climate, I won't be upset if students choose to use this money at Catholic schools or other established Christian institutions of learning. Despite those intentions and given our increasing religious diversity in America, Christian schools won't be the only ones asking for voucher funds. 

Currently, there is a brewing controversy out there because of our nation's growing Muslim population.  Muslims are starting their own postsecondary institutions and K-12 schools, and I am sure they will want their students to have access to the same financial aid as everyone else. I predicted this years ago when I first started paying attention to educational politics. This is the case in Louisiana where an Islamic school applied to receive money under the state's new voucher program. Here is some information from an article posted on the Huffington Post

Stakes escalated last week when, to the frustration of some lawmakers, the Islamic School of Greater New Orleans applied for federal funds under the [new] voucher program. Republican state Rep. Kenneth Havard objected to the Islamic School's request for 38 government-paid student vouchers, saying he opposed any bill that "will fund Islamic teaching," the Associated Press reports. 
The lawmakers were able to breathe a sigh of relief because the school withdrew its application. However, I do not think this will be the last time we hear of such a request from a non-Christian religious school.
Another Louisiana lawmaker made an intriguing prediction:

"It'll be the Church of Scientology next year," Democratic state Rep. Sam Jones told AP.

Well, that's already happened in Florida.  A charter school in the Tampa Bay area is accused of using Scientology methods in its instruction

Politicians and education reform foundations tout the idea of vouchers assuming that the only participating religious institutions would consist of generally well-respected Catholic schools and such. To the contrary, they are now learning that they have put themselves in a tough position as other religions seek to provide their followers with a religious education and wish to be entitled to the same benefits and stature Catholic schools have enjoyed all of these years. 

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