Thursday, June 02, 2005

Defenders of public schools hate kids

As the Florida Supreme Court gears up for a decision in Bush v. Holmes, it's worth reflecting on the real intent of voucher proponents. To be sure, there are some that are honest and really believe that choice would benefit the public schools. But there are many more that are pursuing vouchers to serve a narrow political agenda. They are trying to sacrifice our public schools-- and for what?

For ideology.

A column written by one of the lawyers defending public schools in Bush v. Holmes appeared in the St. Petersburg Times yesterday. Howard Simon is also the Executive Director of the ACLU. In his words:

For 137 years, the following words have appeared in the Florida Constitution: "No revenue of the state shall ever be taken from the public treasury directly or indirectly in aid of any sectarian institution." Three courts have reviewed the governor's voucher program. All have declared it unconstitutional. Because the Constitution is so clear, the voucher program is being defended by scare tactics and by calling defenders of public schools enemies of education reform.

They've used the exact same rhetoric in Texas. Proponents of vouchers here actually said on many occasions that public school advocates were in favor of the system and against kids. Yeah, that's right, damn kids. Teachers devote their lives to them, not for the kids but because they love the system. Ahhhh yes, the system. It enriches teachers with untold wealth ... and glory. Don't forget the glory.

The first tactic is to spread fear that if aid to church-run schools is not permitted, then the work of religious charities (e.g., Lutheran refugee resettlement programs, Catholic adoption agencies, Jewish Vocational Services, etc.) are also vulnerable to legal challenge. Our nation has been dependent on the wonderful work of religious charities since the birth of the Republic. But when religiously affiliated charities choose to contract with the government to deliver social services, they commit to serving the needs of the community - without proselytizing and without regard to the religious affiliation of who is served, and who is hired to serve.

Exactly. Democrats and anti-voucher folks have got to get this across. In the Texas plan that failed so brilliantly a few weeks ago, there was no provision in the law that prevented a sectarian school from discriminating based on religious belief. You simply cannot accept public money to further religious goals. Put simply, don't take my money and convert people to some religion -- any religion -- I don't believe in. This tradition protects us all and we would let it go at our own peril.

We should all be watching the Florida Supremes very closely in the coming weeks.


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