Don’t Say You Weren’t Warned

Whatever the merits of, or problems with, charter schools, those schools at least are public.  Schools that benefit from the voucher programs so beloved by our Governor and legislators are not, and the public dollars going to such schools are not necessarily being used to educate children.

I have lots of problems with vouchers, many of which are detailed in this article I wrote several years ago. I won’t bore you with the whole list. Read the article if you’re interested. But a warning from voucher opponents that has consistently fallen on deaf ears is that families who would opt for private or parochial schools in any case–families whose children already attend such schools–would be beneficiaries of a windfall. They would take money intended to enable poor kids to opt out of nonperforming public schools.

Evidently, that’s exactly what is happening in Indiana.

Father Jake of St. Jude parish in Fort Wayne, Indiana, indicates that, thanks to the impending influx of tax dollars, the church will soon be getting a repaired air conditioning system, redecorating the church, new paint, and repairs to the church steeple.

The link above the quote will take you to a fairly lengthy post in Education Week Teacher by a woman who listened to Father Jake’s speech. As she also reported (emphasis in the original):

I was appalled when he said that most of the students who are accepting vouchers are already attending St. Jude’s (minute 40:57).  Wasn’t one of the selling points of “opportunity scholarships” to reach out to economically disadvantaged students so that they could attend the private school of their choice?  Weren’t students to qualify for vouchers based on the Federal Free and Reduced Lunch Guidelines?

Father Jake says with a chuckle that scholarships must be based on need, but the parish is free to determine what this means (minute 39.47). He says that since the Indiana Supreme Court says that vouchers are constitutionally allowable because the money goes to the tax payer, so the Indiana Choice Scholarship comes essentially with no strings (minute 42:00).  Father Jake goes on to say that he doesn’t see the program going away because the state of Indiana is saving millions of dollars a year by taking $4700  off the top of the funding formula to give to voucher kids rather than spending the $7000 per public school child in the state formulation.  So, the state saves over $2000 per student, but at what cost to our community schools?

Somehow, it doesn’t make me feel warm and fuzzy to know that Indiana is saving tax dollars by shortchanging children and re-roofing Father Jake’s church.

18 thoughts on “Don’t Say You Weren’t Warned

  1. My how things have changed. When I attended Catholic schools we took pride in not taking public funding. “If we take their money, we’ll have to take their books!” This is through the looking glass.

  2. Time to go back to court. This voucher/private school situation is a clear violation of separation of Church and State and us not only illegal, in my opinion, but immoral as well.

  3. Two-thirds (67%) of Indiana parents responding to a survey from a pro-voucher group said that they chose their school specifically for “Religious environment/instruction,” and more than half said they were unsatisfied with their public schools not offering religious instruction.

    Then, there’s the fact that these schools are teaching creationism-as-science — at least 37 voucher-accepting schools in Indiana use a curriculum that includes creationism — along with all kinds of other anti-scientific, ahistorical, and civically bankrupt material.

  4. If muslims were in the news to share that they got funds from the government to help their schools and children, this whole voucher program would end in a heartbeat, wouldn’t it? It’s okay if you’re a Christian but I can just hear the cry – no muslim schools in my backyard!!!

  5. Oh PLEASE get the word out to some Jewish, Muslim, Budhist,& GAY churches. I am sure they could ALL use some free taxpayer money. Let the fun begin.

  6. I listened to the priest’s audio. He says the ‘vast majority’ of St. Jude’s students were already enrolled there. If students had transferred from public schools to the cheaper St. Jude’s school, only then would there have been savings. As it is, the taxpayers are now on the hook for a whole new group of students.

    Legislators supporting vouchers declined to limit vouchers to failing students or students from failing schools or to poor students. Vouchers are now allowed to families with incomes upwards of $100,000. Legislators also declined to prohibit discriminatory admissions policies based on wealth, handicap, test scores, parental involvement, or religion.

    How can this be constitutional? The courts have said that since state money goes to parents rather than the religious schools, vouchers are constitutional. Yes, the state launders the money through the parents. Money laundering is illegal in many other areas of the law. Why not with vouchers?

    One more question. Why isn’t voucher income taxable to the parents? Voucher proponents argue that parents never actually see that money. They just endorse the voucher over to the school. Obamacare was ruled constitutional, and it will permit employees to be taxed for the employer provided health insurance benefits the employee receives. Employees don’t see that money either but they do derive a benefit. Why aren’t vouchers taxable benefits?

  7. I am the mother of a “voucher family.” My children attend Catholic school and have since long before vouchers were in existence. For years (11 years to be exact) my husband and I have paid our taxes into our local school system AND sacrificed things like family vacations so that our kids could attend the Catholic school of our choice.

    Do I feel guilty that this year my family received a voucher to cover the tuition of my special needs son? Not one bit.

    Am I happy to see that other long-time members of our parish who were users of the public school system have been able to choose the Catholic education they desired but could not previously afford? You bet.

    Has our school welcomed children from diverse racial and economic backgrounds thanks to the voucher program? Absolutely.

    I’m not from St. Jude and I don’t know Fr. Jake, but please don’t assume that all schools accepting vouchers are the same.

  8. Voucher, taxpayer money is going to teach children religion. My tax dollars should not be used to provide religious indoctrination, period. How moral is it to steal money from children to give to churches?

  9. Patmcc and Rosemary Rodgers said all that needs to be said on the voucher issue which rivals our tax dollars going for sports venues which the majority of local tax payers never attend. GOP rules with pseudo religious blathering and balls of all shapes, sizes and colors. If people in the city of Indianapolis remember nothing else; remember the weeks of ice and snow covered streets which our tax dollars already paid to have cleared. These issues along with the homophobic values of elected officials can only be resolved at the polls on election days.

  10. To all you lawyer types, I understand that the voucher issue should have been a no-brainer for anyone with some sense about the Constitution not allowing for the government to establish religion, and that vouchers were just a money-laundering scheme (despite the fact that some folks think that they are somehow entitled to that), but that the political hacks in the Indiana Supreme Court sort of ignored the issue. Did I hear that this issue could actually be sent to a Federal court? Is that a possibility? Apparently this is being done in North Carolina.

  11. If you want to educate your kids in that school, be my guest but I don’t appreciate my tax dollars supporting your religion. I also think the tax exempt status needs to end and now. I am also a pacifist and I don’t want my tax dollars going to pay for wars either; even after 9/11. Don’t even get me started on women’s or gays or alien (human) rights. This country is on the wrong path and these religious fanatics have stepped over the line one too many times and I’m sick of it.

  12. A very interesting topic for today which sent me to the Indiana Department of Education’s website to educate myself before commenting about the Choice Scholarship Program (aka voucher system). I spent a bit of time at the below link which provided answers to many, if not most, of my questions.

    http://www.doe.in.gov/choice

    Apparently the majority of the private schools approved by the IDOE are operated by the Roman Catholic Church with generic Christian schools following in the second position. I did note two Hebrew schools (Indianapolis and South Bend) and at least one Islamic school, the Eman School, located in Fishers.

    Of note, after perusing a few of the links on the IDOE website re: the school choice program, I discovered that the Ft Wayne Public Schools now have more families applying for and receiving vouchers than families in IPS. The percentage of families receiving school vouchers has more than doubled for both IPS and for the Ft Wayne schools in only one school year. This is a big flag for me. Families living in relatively moderate to low income areas do not simply make a drastic decision such as moving their kids from public to private schools unless their assigned public schools are atrocious. I suspect agnostic or atheist parents with the abilities to appreciate the need for a solid education in an organized environment and the skills to complete the application for a school voucher would whisk their children out of a dysfunctional public school (i.e., IPS or Ft Wayne) and into a parochial school, if given the opportunity of a financial boost.

  13. Eric, you are correct if the assumptions were right. I believe that the biggest voucher school is a school in Gary, run by the Embassies of Christ. It was rated “A”–not because it has such a great program but because they had a few smart kids–but now it’s “C” or worse but loaded with kids. Lots of voucher and charter schools are being “started” by snake oil salesmen who think that kids are easy to educate, but find out that good academic programs take time, talent and sweat. The Catholic and some excellent long standing protestant schools are around, but they have no intention of becoming huge enterprises. Many of the excellent protestant schools are excellent because they heavily screen people and require parents to participate and support the program, something that most parents don’t want to do. Of course, many parents were already sending their kids to private schools, so the state is simply rewarding them. The new entries, coming from bad schools, aren’t simply wonderful kids hungering for an education. Many parents want to drop their kids off and expect the schools to fix it. Sheila has run a number of articles that point out some serious fundamental problems with the vouchers and charters. The idea was started and pushed by ideologues who think that by privatizing, the market fixes it. This is seriously naive and an idea on the way to disaster. Voucher parents will suck up the money until it’s gone while the public schools are starved and become the failures that people say they are, when they are not in fact bad places to be as a rule, and never were. It’s a fact that the public schools have been the foundation of our society, and once they are ruined the society will go with them. Politicians and the public have moved from focusing on the common good to focusing on ME and what I can get out of it.

  14. @Stuart, the major snake oil school of which you write is located in Gary, IN. Here’s the link to their website: http://www.embassiesofchrist.com/about-us/drs-cedric-and-joyce-oliver/
    Their school touts itself as primarily a Christian academic center with emphasis on life skills. The school now has put together a website: http://www.ambassadoracademy.net/

    Leave me out of this battle. You and Sheila can have at it with Dr Cedric and Dr Joyce and the Embassies of Christ; I’ll support you from from behind my monitor while you put the quietus on this slippery bunch of social program opportunists who’ve mastered the art of how to ‘work the system’. You might have about as much success as the IPS Board did a decade or so ago in ridding itself of Dr Jackie who reigned for 20 years at Arlington High School and ultimately drove the instructional program and the school’s reputation into the ground. By the way, she continues to reign as the Executive Director of Secondary Schools for IPS. Not meaning to be a total snark with you, but seriously there are some organizations that are sacred cows, whether in IPS, Gary, or Lake County. Pick your battles wisely. 🙂

  15. Parents have always had the option to send their children to private and/or religious based schools. They simply pay the required tuition and provide transportation. These voucher-seekers are looking for something for nothing and believe they deserve it. They do not see the simple fact that continuing to take money out of public schools leaves no way to change or improve current conditions. This is what they should be fighting for – not a handout in the form of school vouchers which is in essence public assistance. Look at the escalating school bus transportation problems in Marion County townships. Students are assigned to their schools; Eugene White admitted a few years ago that, due to the lack of funds, they contracted with the cheapest company availabe to provide transportation. He also admitted that this option was the basis for continuing busing problems.

    Check into the Indiana Coalition for Public Education; they are working to better our existing public school system and stop the constant drain of tax dollars being used to support private, primarily religious based, schools.

    To A Voucher Family; has it ever occured to you that, churches being tax-free organizations, the rest of us are paying your share of taxes for private education, public safety, infrastructure support and paying for public education? Don’t feel like the Lone Ranger; you are in the company of all tax paying residents of this city. The assistance for your special needs son is covered in the Indiana Constitution; I’m sure no one who read your comments would deny your son this needed and deserved help.

    Now I want to turn to the rampant crime rate in this city; especially 8 murders in 15 hours and the inane comment from our Chief of Police: “This is not acceptable.” I find this to be an outrageous outlook on the crime problems we are facing. I will tie this into public education and the dwindling amount of tax dollars going into this system. Last Thursday there was a very violent, dangerous attack at Howe High School involving four very large girls attacking one smaller girl. They initially hit her with a school desk, chased her into the hall to continue pounding on her head with a stapler. To get to her they shoved a very pregnant teacher and my pregnant granddaughter into the wall. My granddaughter had been called to pick up her niece, my great-granddaughter, for her safety. They live across the street from Howe; my granddaughter transferred out at the end of her sophmore year to get away from the constant fights and violence. These dangerous conditions often ended in their front yard so she could not escape them by running home. There needs to be more attention given to these incidents and all forms of bullying in our public schools; that is the place to start not accepting the violent situations that become the murderous situations on our news daily.

  16. I guess if you actually listened to the video you would hear how he says they will be able to use the church money to do all those repairs. He never said we will use tax money for this. Too bad public schools are so badly run that the best option is private school. But hey, give Wendy Robinson another $280k a year for a failing school system.

  17. Robby, don’t believe the bad press about schools and how they are run. My experience has been that most school districts and most schools are very careful about how money is spent and how they manage their resources. The negative and nasty politicians have historically beat on the schools, but the school people have not aggressively fought back, which is their biggest mistake. When you don’t fight the bad guys, they sometimes win by default. As far as the perception of quality is concerned, the Phi Delta Kappa survey has historically found that people give schools in general a C or D, the schools in their state a B, and their own schools an A.

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