DDN School Voucher Article Fails To Point Out HB136 Will Use Coercive Taxation To Fund Religious Education

Today’s DDN included a front page article concerning House Bill 136 written by Margo Rutledge Kissell.  HB136 greatly expands Ohio’s voucher program to make it possible that all state money now provided to local schools may, instead, be used to fund vouchers for private schools. The bill has been reported out of the House Education Committee, but, as yet has not been debated within the whole Assembly.  Here is an e-mail I sent to Ms. Kissell:

Ms Kissell:

I was glad to see your article in today’s DDN, “Voucher Bill Next School Battle,” but I think you missed noting the most newsworthy aspect of this bill — the fact that it proposes to use coercive taxation to fund religious education on a scale, up to now, unheard of in Ohio or, for that matter, any other state. This bill deserves a lot of attention and analysis, and I hope you will expand on what you wrote today to include three important aspects that you omitted in today’s piece:

  1. You focused on the budgetary impact this HB136 legislation will have on local school districts, and ignored the key fact that almost all private schools in Ohio are religious schools. The current voucher program is defended as necessary to give children in failing schools a chance for a good education in a religious school. This POV, I believe, is misguided and makes for bad law, but, because of sympathy for the disadvantaged, the current voucher program has public and court support. The huge expansion of the use of tax money to pay for religious education, if HB136 is approved, however, is much more controversial and certainly will be subject to challenge in the court system. The expansion of vouchers to “excellent” Ohio school systems nullifies the argument that vouchers are needed to advance educational opportunity for the disadvantaged.  Of course, leaders in public school districts will wail and moan whenever it appears funds might be taken from their districts. They hate, for example, that they are losing students and funding to on-line public charter schools.  But, the big issue here is not the wailing and moaning of local school leaders concerning the possible diminishing of their funding. The big news, if HB136 is approved, is that tens of millions of tax dollars will be transferred from public schools to private religious schools. If the Assembly thinks “excellent” districts would benefit from more competition, why does it not simply change the law and allow public charter schools to start new schools in “excellent” districts?
  2. Your article failed to describe how nonpublic schools differ from public schools. In addition to religious training / indoctrination, private schools operate according to different standards concerning teacher certification and different standards concerning policies admitting and dismissing students. Private religious schools are empowered to treat both staff and students in ways that would be considered outrageous and unacceptable in the public sector. This freedom of religious schools, of course, is what appeals to many religious parents who seek such an environment for their children. But, it seems unreasonable that tax money should be coerced to support such schools. Private schools are free to choose or reject applicants to their school based on standards that would be deemed unfair in public schools. One amendment that was defeated in committee said: “No nonpublic school that receives payments from a parent or student who is paid a scholarship under the PACT scholarship program shall limit admission to students on the basis of intellectual ability, measure of achievement, or aptitude, disability, or athletic ability.”
  3. I’m surprised that you did not report the fact that two local Dayton legislators serve on the House Education Committee and have cast votes in the committee concerning HB136. Republican Jim Butler voted “Yes” for the legislation and Democrat Clayton Luckie voted “No.” As you develop more in-depth reporting concerning HB136, I hope you will contact both of these legislators and ask them to go on record to defend their votes.

I think your readers will be well served, if you research these possible areas and write future articles concerning this important legislation. Thanks for your efforts.

Sincerely,  Mike Bock

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12 comments to DDN School Voucher Article Fails To Point Out HB136 Will Use Coercive Taxation To Fund Religious Education

  • Eric

    It’s hard to make the case for public schools when their civics curricula is considered “dangerous” by retired SCOTUS justices.

    Too bad you missed the opportunity to help Ohio academic standards meet expectations of constitutional adequacy.

  • Mike Bock

    Eric, I agree that Ohio, at the state level, needs big improvement in its required civics curricula. Creating better standards wouldn’t mean they would be adhered to — unless somehow they would be tied into the district grade card system. An alternative approach might be found in the fact that every local board has the authority to set its own standards. So, we still have the opportunity for influencing our local boards to do better. I’d like to see the link for comments by the Supreme Court justice you refer to.

    Did you notice this post I made: Report Warns Neglecting Civic Education Harms Our Democracy : “All Of Us Must Learn To Become Americans”, By Mike Bock, on October 5th, 2011

  • Bryan

    Mike, You fail to make the distinction between religious education and education provided by religious affiliated institutions. They are two very distinct things. So only pay a portion of tuition that covers the education part and don’t cover the true religious education part. It’s not like they don’t have math and science classes in religious affiliated schools.

    I believe there are countless religious affiliated organizations in the county that also get paid by ‘coercively taken’ public money to perform a service. Daycare facilities, pre-k, nursing homes, and other social services? Would you propose that all those religious affiliated organizations have funding pulled as well?

    The real question you should be asking, and relentless ranting on, is why should public schools have a monopoly on receiving tax dollars to provide an education? People on WIC can take ‘their’ dollars to any grocery store in ohio, but residents are bound to send their children to schools based on geographical borders.

  • Eric

    Did you notice this post I made: Report Warns Neglecting Civic Education Harms Our Democracy : “All Of Us Must Learn To Become Americans”, By Mike Bock, on October 5th, 2011

    October 6th, 2011 at 12:24 am
    Fortunately, efforts are underway to protect schoolchildren from public school educators who can’t draft a constitutionally adequate social studies course of study.

    Oh. I already said that. In any case, thanks, Mike, for further indicting public education and helping to make the case for vouchers.

    You can’t say you weren’t warned.

  • Eric

    As I said, the Guardians of Democracy report supports the need for vouchers, especially given that public school educators have ignored lessons from Catholic educators for two decades:

    “Catholic schools offer model for public counterparts” http://chronicle.uchicago.edu/931014/bryk.shtml
    Catholic Schools and the Common Good, Anthony S. Bryk, Valerie E. Lee, Peter Blakeley Holland (See the chapter “Catholic Lessons for America’s Schools“)

  • Mike Bock

    Bryan, the mission statements of many private religious schools emphasize that the goal of the school is to infuse all parts of a student’s educational experience with a narrowly defined religious POV. It could be expected in such schools that a math class might be taught by a person zealous about his or her faith who would create a climate of indoctrination via his or her own religious testimony / use of class time for prayer, etc.

    Of course, in practice, many religious schools are only nominally so. But the mission statements of some schools are very clear in their commitment to infusing indoctrination into every aspect of the school. Teachers in these zealous religious private schools are encouraged to behave in a manner that is absolutely forbidden in a public school. Parents pay tuition because this type of religious education is what they want for their children. I’m glad they have the freedom to do so. But, supporting religious education with tax dollars is offensive. I find it surprising that individuals who otherwise see themselves as “conservatives” would support vouchers. You make a poor argument that, because tax dollars are already being used to support some religious work, that that fact somehow justifies a new flood of tax dollars to be used for the direct religious indoctrination of youth.

    I agree with your POV that there should be more choice and more competition in our system of public education. Ohio has a system of public charter schools, but the formation of such schools is limited to big city districts or districts deemed as failing. I’m puzzled why the Education Committee did not report a bill allowing the formation of public charter schools to be expanded to districts rated as “excellent,” and, instead, is pushing transferring public money to private religious schools.

    Eric, I’m in favor of more competition, and I’m also in favor of more local control. When I say I am puzzled as to why the Education Committee didn’t approve an expansion of charters, I am not saying that I think that is the best solution. Big mandates from on high cannot be the best solution, but, because local boards have been so under the control of the educational establishment, state Assemblies are frustrated and are making bad policy decisions.

    The best solution is for a local school board to simply use the authority it already has to change the organizational structure of its local school system. A wise state Assembly would incentivise local boards, rather than hammering them with a club. You are wrong to claim that I am making a case for vouchers because, again, vouchers diminish local control of local systems of public education and, besides, I am opposed to vouchers that result in transferring public tax money from public schools to private religious schools.

    The fact that public schools can learn from some of the practices of Catholic Schools may be true, but certainly you are not arguing that public schools should start class with prayer or have mandatory religious chapel services or encourage the veneration of the saints. There is a public sector and a private sector and I’ve not heard any reason why it makes sense for tax money to be transferred from the public sector to support private religious education.

  • Attila the Hun

    Mike, all taxation is coercive. You liberals have no qualms about advocating money to pay for abortions, and a lot of other pet projects. If you have not protested about those uses, then I am uninterested about your objections to tax dollars being used to pay for vouchers.

  • Eric

    I’ve not heard any reason why it makes sense for tax money to be transferred from the public sector to support private religious education.

    Here’s a reason: Governor Strickland worked closely with Ohio public school educators and presented a budget with one-time Federal dollars that could not be sustained. That suggests public education is too large a problem for Ohio and its public school educators to fix. Providing an incentive for students to leave the public schools reduces the size of that problem and provides more dollars per pupil remaining.

    Ohio’s constitution requires officeholders to maximize the number of students receiving a thorough education.

  • Mike Bock

    Attila, you did not comment on the central message of this post: “HB136 Will Use Coercive Taxation To Fund Religious Education.” The issue is whether, or not, tax money should be used for religious education. Arguing that since liberals advocate for dumb policies, then conservatives are justified to argue for other dumb policies, does not help bring any enlightenment to the discussion.

    I’m honestly puzzled why HB136 does not offend the values and POV of individuals who considers themselves “conservative.” What is the analysis, that gives any consistency of thought, by which a defender of constitutional / foundational principles can feel justified in advocating the use of tax money to pay for the religious indoctrination of youth? Ohio’s constitution is clear about this issue, saying, “No religious or other sect, or sects, shall ever have any exclusive right to, or control of, any part of the school funds of this state.” How can it be consistent with conservative principles to disregard or violate constitutional law?

    Eric, a POV that says the only solution for public education in Ohio is the use of tax dollars to fund religious schools is a POV that is unsustainable. How can the notion of allowing religious crackpots access to tax dollars for the purpose of funding the religious indoctrination of youth be seen as good public policy? How can a curriculum that uses the “Creation Museum” as a source of teaching materials and that teaches the world is 6000 years old be seen as a valid part of a “thorough education”?

    I agree with your thought – “Providing an incentive for students to leave the public schools reduces the size of that problem and provides more dollars per pupil remaining” – and, I can buy the idea that public charter schools could be created that could operate at the fraction of the cost of current public schools and that it would make for good public policy that the creation of these type of public schools should be incentivized. But, I can’t buy the idea that it is good public policy to use tax money to pay for religious education.

  • Eric

    I’m honestly puzzled why HB136 does not offend the values …

    It’s conservative to allow parents to raise their own children. That includes making decisions about their education. If government opts to compel kids to attend school, government should rise to the challenge of providing schools worthy of parental support.

    … allowing religious crackpots access to tax dollars …

    So what does more harm, the Creation Museum or Oakwood’s math curriculum? How can democracy work in Oakwood when government at all levels puts it thumb on the scales:

    Steven Leinwand of the Connecticut Department of Education was a member of the expert panel that made final decisions on ED’s “exemplary” and “promising” math curricula. He was also a member of the advisory boards for two programs found to be “exemplary” by the panel: CMP and the Interactive Mathematics Program. In a Feb. 9, 1994, article in Education Week, he wrote: “It’s time to recognize that, for many students, real mathematical power, on the one hand, and facility with multidigit, pencil-and-paper computational algorithms, on the other, are mutually exclusive. In fact, it’s time to acknowledge that continuing to teach these skills to our students is not only unnecessary, but counterproductive and downright dangerous.”

    Combining long division and real mathematical power downright dangerous for many students? How do you propose protecting students from that sort of crackpot?

  • Rick

    It is the responsibility of parents to raise and educate their children. It is morally wrong to coercively take money from those who will not use the public schools and give it to those that do. Gays, Lesbians, those who are celibate, those who choose not to have children, those who cannot have chilren, those who do not want to send their children to the schools in their district (think Dayton, Trotwood, Jefferson Township) should not have to pay for the education of other people’s children.

    Is it conservative to violate the Ohio Constitution? I am not sure. But I am sure that violating the Ohio Constitution is the just thing to do.

    Mike asks, “What is the analysis, that gives any consistency of thought, by which a defender of constitutional / foundational principles can feel justified in advocating the use of tax money to pay for the religious indoctrination of youth?” I ask in return: What is the analysis, that gives any consistency of thought, by which a defender of constitutional / foundational principles can feel justified in advocating the use of tax money to pay for the indoctrination of youth in liberalism and political correctness?

    Liberals love to indoctrinate youth, but only for the cause of liberalism.

  • Mike Bock

    Eric, I’ve written an extended response “In public education, who is the customer?” The point I try to make in this post is that the way to protect the public from educational crackpots is via a vitalizing democracy so that there is authentic local control in charge of the local system of public education.

    Rick, you make a good point that indoctrination of any kind in public education is harmful. The public good that public education should advance is the development of independent thinkers who have the knowledge and experience needed to be full participants in a vital democracy. In my POV, as taxpayers we need to be willing to pay for the education of other people’s children because it is in the public good to do so — in the same way that it is in the public good that we should pay for a military to assure a common defense or pay for a system of environmental protection that assures safe drinking water.

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