Word Choices Can Feed Bias

A recent headline in the Indianapolis Star read: “McCormick Calls for LBGTQ Strings on Private School Voucher Money.”  (Jennifer McCormick is Indiana’s Superintendent of Public Instruction.)

Strings? Or standards?

The statement by McCormick–with which I entirely agree–was prompted by a local controversy over actions taken by Roncalli High School. Roncalli is an Indianapolis Catholic High School that placed one of its guidance counselors on administrative leave after discovering that she was in a same-sex marriage. The school has evidently threatened to terminate her unless she dissolves her marriage.

Roncalli has received more than $6.5 million in public money over the past five years through Indiana’s most-expansive-in-the-nation school voucher program.

The issue is simple: should public dollars–which come from all Hoosiers, including gay and lesbian taxpayers–support schools that discriminate against some of those Hoosiers?

I would argue that taxpayer dollars ought not support private–and especially religious– schools at all, but that is an argument for another day. In any event, I found the Star’s headline offensive. By characterizing McCormick’s proposed standards for receipt of public dollars as “strings,” it strongly suggested that an unnecessarily picky bureaucracy was trying to make it difficult for religious schools to participate in Indiana’s voucher program. It utterly trivialized a very important issue, which is the use of public money to subsidize discrimination.

As usual, Doug Masson has a more temperate–and eloquent– response to the story, and to the issue.

The issue of inclusiveness appears to be a reference to Roncalli’s decision to terminate a long-time, well-regarded guidance counselor when the school was made aware (or forced to acknowledge) that the counselor had a spouse of the same sex. Roncalli is a private school but it’s funded — in part — with public money. The question becomes whether public money should come with conditions and, if so, what conditions should be attached. Obviously, it should and does come with conditions. Voucher money can’t just go anywhere. The voucher school has to look and act more or less like a school. If it was, for example, a tavern that labeled itself a “school,” then Rep. Behning would likely change his position. He says:

If parents have a problem with the school’s practices, employment or otherwise, Behning said they can send their child elsewhere. In that case their tuition will follow, whether it’s paid by the parent or by the state. “Parents are the ones that should be making those decisions,” he said, “rather than the government.”

Rep. Behning is obviously being a little disingenuous here. The government simply wouldn’t let parents make the tavern decision. So, as the joke goes, we’re just haggling over the price. Is discrimination on that basis against an otherwise well-qualified employee because she has a same-sex spouse something we’re willing to fund or not? I obviously fall on the “not” side of that question, and it sounds like Dr. McCormick does as well. My guess is that the General Assembly will be perfectly willing to continue subsidizing Roncalli, notwithstanding its employment practices. (Because, remember, my view of the three goals of the General Assembly when it comes to school vouchers: 1) Hurt the teacher’s unions; 2) direct education money to friends & well-wishers; and 3) subsidize religious education.)

Before education reformers write me to protest that we need “alternatives” and “choice” and “innovations,” let me suggest that they research the difference between Charter schools, which are public and subject to the Constitution, and schools receiving vouchers, which are private and aren’t.

As usual, I agree completely with Doug’s analysis. (I do think he’s too kind to Rep. Behning…”disingenuous” isn’t the word I’d have chosen.)

Another word I wouldn’t have chosen is “strings.” As the saying goes, one person’s “red tape” is the next person’s accountability.


  1. Vouchers were conceived with the intention of improving elementary and secondary education, right? Hasn’t worked, right? Thanks a lot, you who believe in smaller government and you who wished for and achieved destroying the Establishment Clause.

  2. I will be pressuring my state rep and senator to agree to a standard that will not allow discrimination of any kind.

  3. Let’s see, first the Catholics were opposed to homosexuality (and homosexuals) because they were living in sin and having sex outside of marriage. Now we have a lesbian woman, who is married, and they want her to dissolve that marriage and live in sin. Are they asking that because they can no longer find any logical reason to oppose her? Coming from an organization that has abetted sex crimes against children for years, I suppose that’s what we should expect.

    We should have seen this coming since the mid-fifties when they added “under God” to the Pledge of Allegiance” and replaced “E Pluribus Unum” on our money with “In God We Trust.”


  4. We KNOW that Priests have been protected from the law so that they can continue to molest little children for decades.
    But Indiana has NO problem with public money going to them – to their schools
    This is a very odd state

    on the Federal Level
    Might we expect Trump to choose Harvey Weinstein to replace Cavanaugh on his old job?
    He seems to tick all the right boxes for Trump.

  5. I would love to be at the table again after dinner on Shabot in Jerusalem with informed intellect debating current issues from the homeland. After contrarian debate on the efficacy of legitimate separation of politics and religion, I was asked for my view. As a Gentile I admitted I must be humble, but I must share a story that there five Jews who changed the world. That brought a serious response that hit the pause button. I went on … no, seriously, there were five Jews who changed the world. Abraham said it was all about power. Then Moses came along and said it was all about the law. But then Jesus came along and said it was all about love. And then you know what Freud said … it is all about sex. Not to be out done, Einstein shrugs his shoulders and says, “Ehhh! It’s all relative”.

  6. Natacha called the Kavanaugh travesty, “political theater.” What isn’t political theater in Washington?

    ML pointed out the “reactionary Democrats.”

    Both parties are reactionary to what the other does when in power. This is exactly how this country remains stuck in the status quo for the people. Meanwhile, the Donor Class increases their wealth and power in this country and across the globe.

    Who holds them accountable?

    Not the government and not the “free press.”

    And speaking of strings between religion and public monies, Michael Pence is responsible for removing anti-discriminatory language from institutions receiving public monies while Indiana governor. It’s why is the hero of the Evangelists and Theocrats.

    He opened the door to state money for Indiana Wesleyan as well. It was exercised so quietly it was barely a blurb in the IndyStar. At the time, there were several Board members from religious schools who can discriminate against students and employees–you must sign a Jesus pledge.

    Once again, where is/was the “free press”?

    In Muncie, after the state and Ball State orchestrated a theatrical coup of Muncie Community Schools, several of the newly chosen board by Ball State were local preachers with NO educational experience. NONE.

    The local Gannett owned, Muncie StarPress is nothing more than a mouthpiece for conservatism–public relations for BSU and all major employers in the county. They give the Koch shill economist from BSU freedom to spew his Libertarian free market crap on their pages despite little or no following.

    ISTEP scores were recently released and the impoverished city school (70% of the kids on free lunches) didn’t score as well as the pearly white county schools which are now all closed to new students because mobile white parents transferred their kids away from the inner city schools. Teachers transferred as well.

    Did the newspaper article or Mike Hicks talk about the racism inherent in moving white students to the county?


    Did the article discuss all the studies on race and IQ tests? Did the article mention how brown kids score 75% of what their whiter counterparts score?


    The purpose of the article was to show that Muncie Schools were failing the community by producing poor performing students and to open the door for BSU and their new Theocratic/Corporate board to be “innovative”.

    And let me be clear, the local teachers union hand delivered the school district to the state. Every move they made seemed to be orchestrated by the state. There’s a reason all the teacher walkouts this year across the country have been wildcat strikes. Unions are powerless and Hoosiers are perfectly fine with this concept.


  7. A comment from Jefferey St. Clair in Counterpunch: Kavanaugh’s last line of defense was “plausible drunkability.”

    There is an old saying, “Whose Bread I Eat, His Song I Sing”. When you think about it, Judges are politically connected lawyers, who are approved by elected politicians who represent with few exceptions the 1% elite.

    It is very evident when you look at the Supreme Court the elite is represented. You do not need a slide rule or a complex statistical computer analysis to determine that in a clash between we Proles and the Elite, who will win.

    Thus, it is no surprise that the politicians who depend on the votes from the bible thumping block would be all in favor of funding religious schools with no or few standards (strings) attached.

    So it was inevitable that our “Judicial System” would rule public tax dollars could be used for voucher and charter schools.

    Those who can make a buck from this system will eagerly fund elected politicians and selected hacks to pass laws subverting public education.

    The other purpose of charters and vouchers is destroy what is left of Unions. However, as Todd has pointed out the teacher strikes were wildcat in nature.

  8. Goodness!! Hard to believe! Sheila and Todd may be the last two people who continue to subscribe to the Star even though the Star aggravates them as it aggravated the rest of us years and years ago.

    Want something to discriminate against? Make the Indianapolis Star your target.

  9. Pete; the Democrats also made sex the primary issue their protests, in the bogus FBI “investigation” and the primary target for the final Kavanaugh vote. They seemed to forget the many thousands of documents, files and papers they did NOT get from him, the 42,000 they did receive the night BEFORE the “hearing” began, the lies he told during the “hearing”, the questions he couldn’t or refused to answer, his blatant partisan accusation of conspiracy by Clinton and the Democrats against him and ruining his life, his explosive, uncontrolled portion of the testimony after Dr. Ford was questioned and his fake crying spell along with his lengthy admission of his great love of beer, his incredible academic record and athletic prowess. Dr. Ford was not a witness against Kavanaugh in a criminal trial; she was reporting what she knew of his basic personality in high school which his classmates from college and law school said continued and was documented…they were not allowed to be questioned by the FBI. They only tried to prove Kavanaugh had attempted to rape her. The only witness was Mark Judge; the others didn’t remember that particular party out of all of the parties they all attended; as Dr. Ford said, they had no reason to remember that party because nothing happened to them. Do you remember every party you attended and who all was there?

    OMG; I also subscribe to the Indianapolis Star because it is the only daily newspaper in town and much of the state. I have stated numerous complaints about the content and the lack of content; there are some issues reported which I would not have access to otherwise. Our local news channels are more useless than the Star and the quality of the closed captioning I need is so bad, I miss much of what little they do report.


  10. The Catholic Church does not recognize civil marriages, so to the Catholic Church they are NOT married.

  11. Word choices are an excellent choice for today’s discussion. I have just been involved with a FB exchange where a Trumper called Socialism and Communism one and the same. After I pointed out that “Socialism is an economic system while communism is both an economic and political system. Socialists can own personal properties while communists can not. Socialism allows capitalism to exist in its midst while communism seeks to get rid of capitalism,” he then switched to “maybe by definition I’m wrong” and then made the assertion that “one leads to the other.” Sigh.

    Definitions (truth) mean nothing to those (Trumpers) who have their own “truths.” Sad.

  12. The legislative sponsors of vouchers had their own kids in private religious schools and wanted the government to pay for their tuition. This was coupled with legislative parsimony for those dependent on government assistance for food and medicine for life itself and portrayed in self congratulation for protecting the taxpayers from those feeding at the public trough. It’s stomach turning and stomach churning.

  13. Nancy Papas; Florida created a voucher-type system for special needs children in 2001. In 2014 they enacted a voucher system; $42,000 annual income for family of 4, in 2016 they increased it $60,000 annual income for family of 4. Also access to state funds to pay for tutors, I have forgotten the other extras using state funds. Private school systems are now corporation level businesses funded by our tax dollars.


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