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If a parent wants to send their child to a religious school, they have every right to, as long as they can afford to pay for it.
Parochial schools in large numbers such as they are in Louisiana where, state wide, 21% of students go to private schools, they are a parasite on the public schools, skimming off many of the best and brightest students, especially those with involved parents and incomes that allow a child to have normal life experiences.
Just last week Louisiana's legislature passed a bill that would return up to 50% of parochial and private school tuition, up to $5000, to parents in the form of a tax deduction. That is $5000 times 21% of the students in Louisiana! Even one $5000 deduction would buy quite a few computers.
Parochial and private schools should receive no taxpayer money other than, possibly, School Lunch money if any students qualify.
The only way a religious school should rightfully receive government money is if the following happens.
1. They employ ONLY highly qualified, certified teachers This means that they compete for the same pool of teachers as the public schools. Of course that will mean that they will probably have to PAY like the public schools. This does not occur now because many of the certified teachers in religious schools in the inner city ran from the public schools and are unable to deal with normal students---those who often do not to behave like little Stepford children and may not always be high achieving.
2. They practice open admissions. This means that every child who walks, rolls or bounces into any school that recieves government funding is educated in a regular class if that is the most appropriate environment or in special education by a certified and highly qualified special education teacher skilled in that child's area of disability. It means that the rules of IDEA are followed and that special needs children are welcomed. This includes both ends of special education---the hyperactive ones with behavior problems and the sweet ones with the diapers, wheelchairs and g-tubes.
During the recent Louisiana legislative session, a spokesperson for the parochial schools in New Orleans spoke in a session. He said that their schools wanted to teach the children of New Orleans but that they would not take the ones with behavior problems! It has always been that way. That is why parochial schools can educate children for, they bragged shortly before Katrina about $3000 a year. They only take children who are going to learn regardless of whether they have good teachers and large crowded classes---only the easy children. Occasionally they might set up a special school for less able children. They don't follow the rules however, and separate the special children from the mainstream locked away in a different facility. New Orleans had one that I heard had a long waiting list, but even then, they pick and choose and charge the highest tuition they can get the parents to pay.
Finally there is the issue of religious minorities. If the schools are mostly religious because the money has been taken from the public schools and there are only a few pitiful wrecks left, where do the minorities go? The Fundamentalists can go to the church related schools if they can afford it. The Catholics, and some Protestants too, can go to parochial schools. Parents of the latter get the theology straightened out around the dinner table. In some large cities Hasidic and Orthodox Jews can go to Hebrew school. Occasionally, in large cities, there might be a Muslim school.
But what about the others??? What about the 4 little Rastafarian sisters in the public school in New Orleans where I worked. They wore turbans. They kept their bodies covered with more than the required uniforms. They were vegetarians. (Mama brought breakfast and lunch.) One of these little girls was absolutely adorable, but obviously had a learning disability. What is to stop a nun or priest from telling a Rastachild that her religious dress is what is wrong, not the other child, if she is bullied. In public school the sisters beat tormentors up and no administrator said a word. Where do the rare minorities, even sometimes including Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons go to school where they are sure they won't be prostelyzed except public schools?
Absolutely no. Any funding for relgious K-12 schools is wrong unless they can conform to the same rules and standards as the public schools and some how prevent religious coercion. Parochial schools exist for the purpose of providing a religious education. The government must not support the establishment of religion according to our Constitution and yet the conservatives in government sneak around and attempt to fund them in states that are dominated by particular religious groups. Government support is nothing but the back door to vouchers, something the leaders of parochial and fundamentalist schools have been trying to get for years. The governor of Louisiana did not veto the new law. She, herself went to Catholic schools so I would suspect she has no problems funding them.
In an attempt to "offend no one" many public institutions have done away with all expressions of religious belief associated with public facilities. I believe we do a disservice to children in particular when we sanitize their environment. Children should be encouraged to both embrace their own faith and protect the free exercise by others (even if this last point runs counter to being taught intolerance at home). This notion of responsible liberty may well be the only "religion" that is legal under our constitution: in order that I get to practice my religion freely, I must ensure that all others do too.
The schools described in the poll appear too narrow to pass the test of protecting all faiths. Being Jewish and speaking Hebrew, or Muslim and speaking Arabic, as a cultural tradition is very difficult to separate from the religious tenets that have given these cultures their identities.
Developmentally, children may be incapable of distinguishing between ideas that are presented as culture and history, from those that are presented as gospel. Putting them in narrow culture schools will only serve to inculcate the cultural values of a single perspective to the disadvantage of the Constitutional values on which this republic is built.
I am not opposed to choice in education; however, there should be level playing field. Supposedly Charter Schools, as the regulations stand, are not supposed to teach religion. If Jewish and Islamic cultures are what is being used to bypass the regulations, this is wrong. If religion is allowed in some Charter Schools, it should be allowed in all religiously affiliated schools.