April 15, 2021

Derek W. Black and Rebecca Holcombe: Could public money finance private-school discrimination, religion and fake history?

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Derek W. Black is the Ernest F. Hollings Chair in Constitutional Law at the University of South Carolina and author of “Schoolhouse Burning: Public Education and the Assault on American Democracy.” Rebecca Holcombe is the former Vermont secretary of Education. In this op-ed for USA Today, they look at the implications of the new wave of voucher bills being pushed acros the country. It’s not just that public tax dollars will be directed away from public schools, but that the pub lic will lose any say in what is taught in those taxpayer-funded schools.

The problem started last year when the Supreme Court held in Espinoza v. Montana that states cannot adopt blanket policies to exclude religious schools from voucher programs. The court left open the possibility that states could still place limits on what private schools do with the money. States might still prohibit them from using public money to teach religion or discriminate based on religion, race, sex, gender, sexual orientation and other protected classes.

But choice advocates argue these minimal requirements are unconstitutional, too.

This distinction is lost on a lot of states, which make no attempt to stop private schools from using public dollars to teach religion, discriminate or deliver curriculum that flies in the face of historical and scientific facts. Students in North Carolina, Florida and Indiana have tried to use their vouchers at religious schools only to be turned away because they didn’t fit the school’s desired demographic.

Far too many of these schools also use textbooks that routinely espouse anti-science and white-centric ideology. For instance, as the Orlando Sentinel reported, some Florida voucher schools teach students that dinosaurs and humans lived together, that God’s intervention prevented Catholics from dominating North America, that slaves who knew Jesus Christ were better off than free men who did not, and that most Black and white Southerners lived in harmony until power-hungry agitators stirred up conflict.

Voucher advocates now argue not only that they have a right to participate in these voucher programs, but also that states cannot regulate what they teach with the money.

Read the entire op-ed here.

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