The Parasitic Religious Right

Whilst perusing The Life and Times of Bruce Gerencser, I came across a post from my pal that spoke of taxpayer’s money being funnelled away from state schools, and towards private schools. In particular, this money is going towards private religious schools, and in the US state of Ohio, that means Christian schools.

It is of no surprise to see that Bruce is not pleased with this arrangement, and neither am I. I am sure critics of my views might complain (hypocritically I may add, given how some of those critics speak of US politics all the time, yet live further from the USA than I do) that I am commenting on US political matters, but free speech and all that, so save your complaints for the ether.

The nuts and bolts of this issue is that yet again Republicans and the Religious Right are seeking to circumvent the separation of Church and State. They are using public money to aid the growth of religious schools, and the last I checked, this went against the spirit of the First Amendment. However, Bruce sums it up far more eloquently than I:

Ohio Republicans care about diverting a ton of taxpayer money (desperately needed by cash-strapped, levy-dependent districts) to benefit private school families, regardless of income or need, who choose to send their darlings to diocesan grade schools and religious high schools. That is certainly their right. Plenty of parents decide private school is the preferred option for their progeny. Good for them.

But that individual choice is a private value, a private good being wrongly underwritten by hundreds of millions of limited public funds not going to advance the common good of a public school system that accepts all and serves nearly 90% of Ohio students. Those finite funds for education in the state budget are flying out the door to serve the few — just over 8% of students in the state go to private schools — who freely chose a tuition-based education over the free public instruction we collectively support with our taxes.

But GOP lawmakers, who made funding private education a priority years ago, have been starving public schools of adequate and equitable state aid for a long time. With Huffman at the helm, Republicans unleashed a flood of tax revenue to boost the fortunes of private schools and swell enrollment at parish grade schools and religious high schools. GOP legislators continued inflating their massive giveaway of taxpayer dollars to private schools while remedies to fix the unconstitutional funding formula for public schools languished for decades.

If you read through the link, you’ll see that the total sum of taxpayer’s money could reach a billion dollars on this particular enterprise. At a time when public schools are being starved of finances, it makes little sense to so heavily divert funds to private schools. It is, as Stephen Dyer puts it:

Stephen Dyer, a education policy analyst and former Ohio state representative, said on All Sides that the program is failing to open up opportunity to attend private schools to lower income and non-white families like proponents of the program suggest. Dyer said he finds it stunning that of the 32,000 additional new applications for the voucher, 28,000 came from white families.

“What it’s turned into is a subsidy for wealthier, mostly white families to help subsidize the creation of a public subsidy for them to send their kids to private school. With almost zero oversight with how this money is being spent,” Dyer said.

Ohio Education Association President Scott DiMauro also criticized the program and said vouchers allow the state to subsidize schools that he said do not serve all students and are able to pick and choose which students can attend regardless of accountability.

“The reason that it is so important to have a strong, fully funded public school system is because only public schools have the responsibility and the duty to serve all students, regardless of their race, their gender, their family income, regardless of who they are or their abilities,” DiMauro said.

If people wish to send their kids to private schools, that’s absolutely fine. The public should not be paying for them to do so.

Please follow and like us: