Footing The Bill For Proselytizing

The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette has reported on Indiana’s school voucher program–the largest such program in the United States–and has followed that report with a wider-ranging, scathing editorial listing additional issues with the program.

The newspaper’s revelations didn’t surprise those of us who have been watching what I can only call “the voucher scam.” Whatever the motives of the people who originally supported these programs–and I know that some of them were sincerely trying to improve educational opportunities for poor children– vouchers have become the weapon of choice for theocrats who have long felt threatened by public education.

As the article notes,

Taxpayers in Indiana are footing the bill for student scholarships to schools that push ultraconservative and sometimes bigoted viewpoints.

More than 30 private schools participating in Indiana’s school voucher program use textbooks from companies that teach homosexuality as immoral, environmentalism as spiritually bankrupt and evolution as an evil idea.

Of the 318 private schools participating in Indiana’s Choice Scholarship Program – a voucher program that uses public funding to help students afford private schools – 36 use at least one textbook or piece of curriculum created by either Abeka or Bob Jones University Press.

The reporters checked the websites of 131 Christian schools that participate in Indiana’s “Choice” program, looking for details about their curricula. If a school didn’t have a website, or the information on the site was inadequate, they reached out via phone and email. Most failed to respond.

Who are Abeka and Bob Jones University Press? How do their textbooks compare with standard classroom materials?

Abeka, a textbook company, is affiliated with Pensacola Christian College, a far-right religious university in Florida that bans “dancing” and “satanic practices” in its code of conduct. Bob Jones University Press is affiliated with its eponymous university, which outlawed interracial dating until the year 2000.

According to education scholars, the textbooks produced by Abeka and Bob Jones are filled with inaccurate history and distorted science. A  historian is quoted in the article saying that the history texts don’t teach anything “that could accurately be called history;” instead, she said, “They are essentially proselytizing for Protestant Christianity.”

In a middle school American history textbook published by Abeka, titled “America: Land I Love,” Satan is blamed for the spread of the theory of evolution and modern psychology, according to a book procured by HuffPost.

A high school world history textbook from Bob Jones University Press also pushes falsehoods and stereotypes. One chapter asserts that it was Jewish religious leaders who plotted to kill Jesus Christ, a myth that has long been used to fuel anti-Semitic sentiment.

Of the 318 schools that currently participate in Indiana’s voucher program, more than 95 percent are explicitly religious. According to the Journal Gazette’s calculations, at least 4,240 children receiving vouchers funded by tax dollars attend schools that use the Abeka or Bob Jones’ textbooks.

Of course, not all participating schools use these texts, and some 34,000 students have now participated in Indiana’s voucher program, so it is only fair to consider how they are doing overall. After all, voucher programs have now been around long enough to be evaluated.

The news isn’t good.

The research simply doesn’t support the rosy claims made by proponents. In Indiana, studies show that children using vouchers have an average annual loss of 0.10 standard deviations in mathematics when compared to comparable public school students; that same research found no statistically meaningful difference in reading.  Research from other states has yielded even more disappointing results.

These schools may be bringing children to Jesus, but they aren’t improving their educations.

So–let’s sum up what we know: Significant resources are being diverted from Indiana’s struggling public schools in order to send funds to private religious schools that do not improve children’s performance in reading, and significantly worsen their performance in math. An indeterminate number of those schools substitute extremist religious indoctrination for accurate instruction in history and science.

This is the Mike Pence “model” that Betsy DeVos wants to replicate nationwide.

These are your tax dollars at work.


  1. Oh, God, save us from these Kristofascist hypocrites! Save us from Pence and this White House. Save us from these Trumpturds.

  2. Article 1, Section 6 of the Indiana Constitution states: Section 6. “No money shall be drawn from the treasury, for the benefit of any religious or theological institution.” I vehemently object to my tax dollars being spent for yours, mine or anyone’s religion.

  3. Let’s face it, Americans are being “screwed up the wall” and so far the MAJORITY [ except when they get around to voting every two to four years] seem to enjoy it more and more.

  4. A widespread protest in the form of refusing to pay those taxes that are given for vouchers might bring this to a head.

  5. Sheila, thank you for calling this a scam, because we are all being scammed so some upper middle class families can segregate themselves from the “unwashed” they prefer not to associate with. Not only does the state fork out hundreds of millions for the vouchers, that money comes from the whole education budget, meaning EVERY public schools gets less money even the school coporations where no vouchers are used or there are no voucher schools in the area. We also pay through the tax credits that are offered for donations to an Scholarship Granting Organization (SGO), that provides additional funds for families that qualify for financial aid at the private school. From the IDOE website : “Funding for scholarships come from private, charitable donations to qualified scholarship granting organizations (SGOs). Donors (individuals or corporations) are eligible to take advantage of a 50% tax credit. While there are no limits on the size of qualifying contributions to an SGO, the entire tax credit program has a limit of $12.5 million for FY2018. This permits up $25 million in donations and scholarships for FY2018.” Take a tour of the Catholic schools around Indianapolis and you will see new stadiums and state of the art athletic facilities. A parish in Fort Wayne bragged of using voucher funds to build a new steeple for the church. A church in the Whitestown -Lebanon area, where all of the local public high schools are graded “A” and even have USDOE four star ratings, is building a huge new high school; and this school uses the Abeka text books. Heritage Christian on the Northeast corner of Indianapolis has expanded at an excelerated rate adding bulidings and sports facilities since vouchers were implemented in 2011. Some schools such as Park Tudor in Indianapolis, take the funding from SGOs without taking vouchers. By going around the vouchers, they can get out of giving the ISTEP tests and avoid any label by a grade from the state.

    The vouchers are a scam, and we should all be contacting our state legislators with Neal Smith’s comment, ” Article 1, Section 6 of the Indiana Constitution states: Section 6. “No money shall be drawn from the treasury, for the benefit of any religious or theological institution.” I vehemently object to my tax dollars being spent for yours, mine or anyone’s religion.”

  6. daleb; exactly HOW do we separate our tax dollars going to pay for vouchers from all other uses? Either we pay the full amount of tax THEY set FOR us or we are fined for not paying our taxes in full. For those who are due a tax refund, the amount would simply be deducted from that figure. Have you not become aware we do not tell the government, at any level, where to use our tax dollars; that is how and why we are currently watching the “deconstruction” of all government?

    Information I received from a relative who was raised Catholic but is no longer active, has worked for almost 14 years in a local Catholic Church and School and enrolled her two sons (for 2 years only) in hopes of ending their bullying for one son’s disability…those voucher students are REQUIRED to study Catholicism with other students but are not required to participate in prayers. This is brain-washing our children at an age when they are not aware they are being brain-washed – or even understand the term.

    There is much more at stake than our tax dollars within the voucher system and once Trump and DeVos get their “God’s Kingdom” to destroy all public education systems; our country’s future will be set in place and the Pope will rule over the president.

  7. The effects of our contamination are spreading all over the world. We can no longer mount a counter-campaign or an EFFECTIVE PROTEST without the help from outside our borders. The Guardian Newspaper located in England has been one good example of help however, we need much more help than they can give.

    Our media will never say it the way it really is. They bring us the news AFTER THE FACT. That’s called the safe way. It might also be labeled cowardly. No need to retaliate against them.

    The Germans in the late 30’s were asking for help from the outside, especially England, thru the OSTER CONSPIRACY, but their efforts came to naught—- Chamberlain sold out to Hitler.

  8. Teresa Kendall suggested that our legislators be told to read the state constitution, which prohibits what is going on. That was tried when the voucher system was first developed. The rationale used by the legislature was that the money is not going to the schools: it is going to the parents who what better educations for their kids, and are entitled to use the money any way they wish. Someone went to court over the matter, and it reached the State Supreme Court, which agreed with the legislature.

    We have a State Supreme Court that does not like to criticize the decisions of the legislature, regardless of what the state’s constitution says. Do you remember when they gave themselves a raise by tacking the provision on to a bill dealing with a different matter (a violation of the constitution)? In his decision, the Chief Justice glossed over the wording in the Constitution. If I were a cynic I might think that he worried that if he did not allow the legislators to give themselves a raise, the justices would never again get a raise.

  9. “The effects of our contamination are spreading all over the world. We can no longer mount a counter-campaign or an EFFECTIVE PROTEST without the help from outside our borders.”

    Marv; your words above are more true than they appear in their simplicity and directness. I am sorry I didn’t get the name of Brian Williams’ guest at the end of “The Last Word” last night on MSNBC. The subject was Trump and his (denied) preoccupation with nuclear stockpiling. The statement was succinct, vital and frightening and the most truthful, all encompassing summation of what Trump has done since January 20, 2017. “He has taken away our power of diplomacy.” That is true internally as evidenced in the apparent impossibility to approach bipartisan reasoning to resolve any internal problems – including the future of the education of our children. He has taken away the hard-fought-for trust, diplomatic agreements and pacts between this country and all nations. Who among our former trusted allies continue to be our allies outside our borders?

    “Our media will never say it the way it really is. They bring us the news AFTER THE FACT.”

    News is only news AFTER THE FACT; before it happens, to “report it” is merely conjecture, speculation and guesswork.

  10. The voucher system was originally pushed through our state legislature as an alternative for students who were attending failing public schools. There was a requirement that students must attend at least one year of public school before they could qualify for a voucher to a private school.

    Both of these requirements were quickly eliminated and our voucher system has become a publicly financed form of segregation.

    Many, if not most, of these schools using the voucher system choose to admit only higher performing students and most also don’t accept special needs students that just happen to need more costly programs. Those students who are mentally or physically handicapped are rejected by private schools and that extra financial burden stays in public schools, forcing them to stretch their budgets even further.

    I am angry that I am being forced to subsidize private religious education for parents who want to mix their religion with school and I still believe there has to be a way to stop this via a lawsuit that violates the Constitution. Why should taxpayers be legally forced to finance the mix of schools and religions?

  11. Speaking of public education…….what about Mitch Daniels’ purchase of Kaplan U to mix it in with Purdue? I recently read that we Hoosier taxpayers will be holding the bag for any losses and that contract protects only the shareholders of Kaplan U.

    Sheila – since you work at IUPUI you probably know more than most of us about this future debacle. Could you give us some insight on this in a future post?

    This privatization by Daniels’ reminds me of the IBM contract he signed that went sour and is still costing us millions and millions thanks to his hell bent ideas of privatizing everything.

  12. @ daleb – I also have spoken of a widespread refusal to pay taxes until they eliminate this public financing of religion.

  13. Seems to me that another lawsuit could be filed against the voucher system as the rules have changed. At least make them go back to the rules that were first established and upheld by the courts. However, we must all see at this point that much of the country’s government has already been taken over by the religious right that fully intends to turn our republic into a theocracy.

    Trump is just a distraction!!!! The problems originate in the churches and board rooms.

  14. Whenever I am speaking with young adults and teenagers, even those who didn’t attend voucher schools, I am appalled by their lack of knowledge or understanding of even the basic tenets of our government or our society in general.

    Most of those I speak with don’t read anything that isn’t a course requirement and it seems course requirements these days don’t include classic literature. They’ve not read Aristotle, Plato, Machiavelli, Chaucer, or Shakespeare. They’ve never even heard of Steinbeck, Lewis, or Faulkner and the only contemporary author they are familiar with is J.K. Rowling.

    This is indicative of the sad state of public and private education in this country, but the answer is certainly not additional disinformation as proposed by our current Secretary of Education. Generally, I like to propose solutions, but I admit, I don’t have any such proposal today. Maybe we can start by letting kids know it’s okay to be smart?

  15. Separation of church and state IS mandatory.
    A BIG problem arises when we use the words , ” GOVERNMENT”, AND ” religion.”
    They BOTH literally mean MIND CONTROL. iT IS ALL ABOUT commerce. iF NOT NOBODY WOULD GIVE A DAMN.As Jack Napier said,
    ” Money,money,money ! Who ya’ gonna trust ? “

  16. JoAnn,

    “News is only news AFTER THE FACT; before it happens, to “report it” is merely conjecture, speculation and guesswork.”

    You right about the news, but that’s not what INTELLIGENCE is all about, it’s about the future acts not about a history lesson. That is exactly what the Southern Poverty Law Center isn’t with their INTELLIGENCE REPORT limited on the KKK and other paramilitary organizations. Where do you think most of the recruits from? They’re coming from the fundamentalist churches which Morris Dees and The Southern Poverty Law Center has never touched.

    I’ve encountered the Religious Right /Far Right on at least twenty occasions. The Southern Poverty Law Center has never attempted one time. That’ why the $$$$$ keep rolling in. And we are “losing our shirts” in the meantime.

    I’m tired of arguing with you on this. That’s why I’ve left the blog so many times. And I’m ready to leave again. I can’t afford to waste my time.

    Maybe you’re wrong for once. Try to admit it.

  17. I will assure you there is absolutely no chance to prevent the disaster we’re all facing until we analyze the good and the bad of The Southern Poverty Law Center and especially its relationship with the Anti-Defamation League since the 80’s.

    Does anyone, in their right mind, believe anyone can do ANYTHING EFFECTIVE as long as THOSE TWO are in control of the response to the Religious Right/Far Right?

    They are both an instrumental part of the Religious Right/Far Righ TROJAN HORSE.

  18. “There is much more at stake than our tax dollars within the voucher system and once Trump and DeVos get their “God’s Kingdom” to destroy all public education systems; our country’s future will be set in place and the Pope will rule over the president.”

    JoAnn-Believe it or not, the last part of your statement is almost an exact quote from a KKK flyer that was left on our car windshield in 1960 when JFK was running for President. I have to strongly object to that statement. It wasn’t true then and is not true now.

    I was raised Catholic and attended Catholic and public schools throughout my education. The curriculum was decidedly skewed to exclude the new science of genetics, evolution and to rely heavily on Church teachings of that era. The Church has changed many of those tenets, especially in the area of science.
    Personally, even when in high school, I knew about evolution and understood that I could learn about it any time I wanted (and I did). When I was in college, my biology teacher, a lay person, taught genetics as part of biology class, even though the textbook we used had no chapter in it on that subject as it was an emerging science in the 1950s.

    Interestingly enough, my own experience with public education was in grade school where I was humiliated fairly regularly by the teacher for not participating in the daily recitation of the protestant version of the Lord’s Prayer. That grade school was typical of the 1950s in that we started every day with the pledge of allegiance and the prayer. The town’s population was white by law (sundown law was enforced by the sheriff) and by protestant churches. There were no Jewish families and only a handful of Catholics. The KKK was active and regularly harassed anyone of color or non-protestant religion who happened to come to their attention.

    It galls me that this garbage is still present and gaining acceptance still. I heartily agree and actively speak out against the policies currently in place that allow religious schools to enjoy the benefits of taxpayers money in the form of vouchers. If you want your child to get a particular brand of regular religious instruction, do it at your own cost.

    I am also convinced that the underlying issue is not religious as much as racial. Vouchers were and are used as a means to achieve de facto segregation. And I won’t even start about home schoolers. Fear and willful ignorance are a cancer and we are in the fights of our lives with the propaganda funded by dark money and theocrats who would force all to adhere to their beliefs.

  19. Please excuse my spelling and grammar mistakes. It’s hard to check when you are as pissed off as I am at those two. They’re very effective.

    Nothing personal. JoAnn might be the most intelligent person on the blog.

  20. JD; you cannot possibly be comparing anything about the election or the period of history that elected President John Kennedy, our first Catholic president, with Donald Trump, our first mentally unstable, pseudo christian, racist, bigoted president. President Kennedy did not run on a political campaign to rule by his personal religious belief and racism as his guiding factors. He upheld the Constitution and fought for civil rights for all; including the right to live by one’s personal religious beliefs openly. Trump, Pence, Bannon, Sessions and DeVos have a KKK, White Nationalist foundation based on their “religious” (total control) beliefs and encourage racism and bigotry. The current Pope; a man for whom I have the greatest respect, is not “their kind” of people and would not be “their kind” of Papist leader. My terminology may have been wrong regarding the term “Pope”; my meaning should have been clear.

  21. All:

    You have exhibited far more intelligence and courage than your state legislature in Indiana. Mike Pence was Indiana’s worst political mistake since before the Great Depression. He and his reactionary spouse are totally committed to destroying the wall between church and state no matter any Constitution. This clearly defines a demagogue who isn’t interested in the welfare of the people, but rather, his/her own agenda.

    The same thing applies to all these holier-than-thou hypocrites. It’s purely self-serving poppycock that drives these people. Give them a few hundred million dollars and they become the sword of God and will do anything to achieve their “glory”.

    Make no mistake, Pence, his spouse and DeVos are cut from the same selfish and ideological cloth that has destroyed so many civilizations over the centuries.

    Get active and take this information to the public. Find and develop good candidates to defeat the gutless wretches currently in your state house and the Congress in Washington. We don’t have much time.

  22. The extreme racism is coming about through the MUTATION of the MORE extreme anti-Semitism in the majority of the fundamentalist churches which the Anti-Defamation League has refused to expose or attempt to combat since the mid 80’s because of the fear that the enormous financial aid to Israel will be affected if they did. They weren’t wrong about that.

    As I pointed out, a few days ago, that is exactly what President George Bush did in 1991, after we filed which stopped him from preventing the victory for 1 man, 1 vote in Dallas.

    That was a landmark VICTORY in the continuing struggle for the voting rights of minorities.

  23. To All,

    Vernon: “You have exhibited far more intelligence and courage than your state legislature in Indiana.”

    Vernon: “Get active and take this information to the public.”

    Let’s try to do better than Casandra did with the Trojan Horse and REMOVE THE DECEPTION. Without the deception, the immense power of the Religious Right/Far Right will, hopefully, start to collapse.


  24. I wonder what would have happened in post WW11 ,pre voucher times, if all those kids had been dumped in the public schools? Overwhelming? Just saying back then hard working tax paying parents payed tuition for their kids to go to Catholic Schools. Their choice, yea. I’m wondering the effect this situation had on Public Education System? These people paid their taxes, but their kids didn’t didn’t benefit educationally, so the schools had extra tax dollars to make educational oasis?

  25. Do the public school parents have a cause of action against the local government which is removing tax dollars from the public school system?

  26. The whole idea is to siphon off tax money without the accountability that a Board of Directors or Shareholder Committee would require. The top of the State Office Building should replace the sign “Indiana A State that Works” with “Indiana–Public Risk–Private Profit”, because that comes closer to the truth.

  27. Quite aside from church and state and constitutional arguments on the use of public funds for religion, let’s look at this from another stance. If I am teaching religion instead of readin, writin, and rithmetic, then I am not preparing these students for life in the real world of commerce, government etc. in which they will live. Likewise, if the curricular design is to teach arithmetic six out of the seven periods for instruction, then grammar and geography go wanting. We should object to teaching of religion if funded by taxpayers on these grounds, too, since the time spent teaching religion could more advantageously be spent in instructing students about how they will be living in this world – let the churches and temples and mosques teach them how to get to the next world.
    We need to teach our students about spreadsheets and the fundamentals of robotry if they are to work for IBM and Silicon Valley, respectively. We should be teaching our students about living in this world in the most efficient manner possible, not only to escape the Cartesian “blank slate” theory, but because knowledge itself is coming at us in leaps and bounds and we have to inculcate our students with real world information if they are to be knowledgeable citizens and prospects as employees in the world of spreadsheets and robotry with the IBMs and Silicon Valleys of this world, and we should be teaching our students to b(Ce effective and knowledgeable citizens even if there were no proscription against teaching religion on the taxpayers’ dime. (See contra, Professors Pence and DeVos.)

  28. Thank you Sheila and Karen Francisco at the Journal Gazette for continuing the flow of information on vouchers. Thank you too to Teresa Kendall for her many specifics.

    Voucher and charter school supporters are upset that their failing school grades show they do not offer a better or as good an education as public schools. They have moved mightily to minimize or eliminate private and charter school accountability in a variety of ways. Tony Bennett was caught doing it behind closed doors. State legislators as well as the State Board of Education and State Charter School Board members appointed by the Governor are more brazen and obvious about it.

    Big business lobbyists have pushed hard to create and expand both charters and vouchers (so that wealthier families qualify) AND for the immense focus on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) curricula. Civics, other social studies, literature, languages, vocational education, fine arts and more have suffered in comparison. There’s only so much time in the school day and year, and STEM subject requirements are squeezing out others. Then some in government want to deny science.

    There are a handful of Muslim schools in Indiana, but if 95% of voucher schools were Muslim schools, do we really think our legislature or public would be comfortable with their tax dollars supporting those schools? That’s why church and state should be separate – so that we don’t directly or indirectly support ‘favored’ religions with our tax dollars. Taxpayers expect accountability for their tax dollars. Churches and their schools expect autonomy from government. It’s impossible to do both at the same time.

  29. Why worry about it?

    If crazy schools teach crazy ideas, we can rely on our children to NOT LEARN THOSE CONCEPTS; they’re very good at that.

    I don’t care if the schools teach that the world is concave and exactly 6014 years old–two concepts, two! and six years after graduation our Indiana high school grads will have forgotten, or never have learned in the first place.

    Consider this embarrassing thought: if we test our graduates on the content in MTV and rap music, their scores would be astronomically high.

    I’m for sending the parents back to school–charter, voucher, or public.

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