Mercury Rising 鳯女

Politics, life, and other things that matter

Ohio’s Voucher Program: End Run Around The Establishment Clause?

Posted by Phoenix Woman on December 12, 2011

The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America runs thus:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion

The Supreme has in the past judged — twice — that it forbids public funding of parochial schools.

So how, then, is the State of Ohio able to get away with this:

Terri Seymour, a Colerain [Ohio] Township mother of an EdChoice eighth-grader, is happy that her daughter, Amanda, was able to move from a Mount Healthy elementary school that she deemed too easy to two more challenging Catholic schools, most recently St. Clement School in St. Bernard.

“It’s made her brand new,” Seymour said of Amanda.

Somebody should tell Ms. Seymour that if she wants her daughter to do well in mathematics — which is essential to careers in business or any of the sciences — she’d better put her back into public school, as a 2006 study found that public-school kids get much better math educations than those in conservative Christian schools:

The Education Department reported on Friday that children in public schools generally performed as well or better in reading and mathematics than comparable children in private schools. The exception was in eighth-grade reading, where the private school counterparts fared better.

The report, which compared fourth- and eighth-grade reading and math scores in 2003 from nearly 7,000 public schools and more than 530 private schools, found that fourth graders attending public school did significantly better in math than comparable fourth graders in private schools. Additionally, it found that students in conservative Christian schools lagged significantly behind their counterparts in public schools on eighth-grade math.

Furthermore, why is public money being shoveled at non-public schools, religious or otherwise, without any form of accountability? From the Cincinnati Enquirer article linked above, wherein we met Terri Seymour:

Six years after Ohio taxpayers began paying private-school tuition for what is now more than 15,000 students, the state is not reporting academic results for about half of them.

Scam, scam, scam.

15 Responses to “Ohio’s Voucher Program: End Run Around The Establishment Clause?”

  1. Mark Gisleson said

    I think Catholic schools are a different issue than conservative Christian academies. In most urban areas, Catholic schools seem to do better than public schools. But in rural Iowa where I grew up, classmates who’d attended parochial school and were then mainstreamed into public high school all told me they were totally unprepared for high school. The diocese was poor, couldn’t afford a high school and used poorly trained nuns to teach the grade school and middle school kids. Clearly religious schools are a mixed bag but those doing better than our public schools should be grandfathered along if for no other reason than to make sure some kids are educated. (They can always throw off the religious training later.)

    Any education policy that fails to make public schools any sane person’s first choice for their kids is a failed education policy. I’m less worried about the favoritism Republicans show to private (i.e., selectively racist) schools, than I am about how Obama is absolutely refusing to rejigger the budget so as to give today’s kids a fighting chance.

    As a resume writer, the difference between inner city kids and suburban kids was blisteringly obvious to me. The suburban kids were the beneficiaries of good educations while the inner city kids barely knew their fundamentals. This is the real crime: starving inner city schools and failing to prepare those students for college. Parochial schools? Just be glad someone’s getting an education. Payback for these tricks can wait. First we need to upgrade public schools before we start trying to claw back tax dollars from the papists.

    • And that’s what’s happening here: Not only are public resources being steered away from public schools, particularly those in inner cities, and toward private and parochial institutions, there isn’t any accountability over how that money is spent.

      There have been at least two landmark studies showing that the much-vaunted private-school advantage isn’t as big as claimed (and in fact doesn’t exist in some areas). Both were requested and then suppressed by presidents named Bush. The 2006 Educational Testing Service study is in a way even more remarkable than the 1989 Sandia Labs one, as the charter-school movement had been well underway for over a decade when it was done, yet its results are similar to those obtained in 1989, after the nation’s public schools had sustained seventeen more years of attacks, most notably from the vampirism of the charter-school hucksters () and the outright violation of the Establishment Clause as seen in Ohio (and very likely other places).

      • Mark Gisleson said

        But my point is that we’re so desperate for competent education that for the time being, I’m willing to endure some crap like this if it means more kids getting an adequate education. Today’s uneducated will be tomorrow’s Republican base.

        The right and right-to-lifers have churned the church school/home school stuff long enough that I think we should consider those ideas firmly embedded among a significant percentage of Americans. Fortunately, the cure is for the federal government to step in and enable the restoration of the public school system.

        Once kids who go to public schools have an academic advantage over average private schools, most parents will stop paying tuition and will put their kids into the “better” school.

        If Obama was actually fixing our public schools, I’d be pissed about the church-state violations, too. But since he’s not, let’s latch on to anything that works, however morally crippled the setting.

      • Charles II said

        Mark, this study says that parochial schools do not improve the performance of white students. Since it doesn’t demonstrate any particular reason for the improvements in performance it observes for black and Hispanic students, it’s possible that it is a consequence of small sample size, self-selection, or some other cause completely unrelated to the quality of education.

        Some parochial schools are excellent. Some public schools are excellent. Some parochial schools are terrible. Some public schools are terrible. Nobody really knows what leads to good educational outcomes except for one thing: poverty and hopelessness are strongly connected to failure.

        You should read about is this description of the one experiment in school performance that should be guiding the discussion.

      • Mark Gisleson said

        I’m sure parochial schools average out that way, but the fact is that in many places they’re the best schools available to most parents. I would homeschool before I’d send a child to a parochial school, but right now my biggest fear is that we’re raising a nation of dummies a la Idiocracy.

        The right wants us dumbed down. Sometimes I think their parochial school mischief is just a Brer Rabbit style tar baby to tie us up while they finish destroying public schools.

  2. Stormcrow said

    Your remarks re catholic schools come as something of a surprise.

    I spent first grade in a Catholic school. I came out of it with reading skills that were consierdably above average.

    The guy I worked with during my postdoc at Cornell was also a product of Catholic schools.

    Considering that his higher educational background was in civil engineering, the fact that he could and did deal, rather easily, with theory at the level that Cornell’s Theoretical and Applied Mechanics group churned it out, with speaks rather well for his mathematics. FYI, the group at TAM included John Guckenheimer and Philip Holmes. Do a Google search on “dynamical systems” and you’ll find both of these names sprinkled liberally through the citations. Thes guys take up where V. I. Arnold left off, and continue from there right into the stratosphere.

    Unless things have changed radically in the last 30 years, I think it’s a serious mistake to put Catholic schools in the same analysis bin that Christian Fundamentalist education goes in.

    • “Unless things have changed radically in the last 30 years, I think it’s a serious mistake to put Catholic schools in the same analysis bin that Christian Fundamentalist education goes in.”

      Let’s assume this is all true. Why are American taxpayers being made to subsidize this? (Remember: Public funding of religious schools has been shot down twice by previous Supreme Courts.)

      Why, furthermore, are taxpayers made to subsidize that with next to no accountability, much less control, over how the money is spent?

      And the remarks aren’t mine, they’re from the NYT article on the study — which the Bush administration sat on for six months and then released as a Friday afternoon news dump in the hopes that nobody would hear about it.

      • Stormcrow said

        Why are American taxpayers being made to subsidize this?

        Let me venture a guess.

        Because the Federal government is standing by with its thumbs up its ass, while the state of Ohio is cheerfully flushing what little is left of the Constitution down a toilet when the religious lobbys ask them to?

        Of course, what the government is also doing, is helping flush its own legitmacy down that same toilet.

        Bad idea! You never, EVER permit the legitimacy of your own government to be undermined. Let alone help someone to undermine it!

        Her comprehension of that issue, is why Queen Elizabeth II managed to die of old age, with her crown still on her head.

        But the idiots in charge these days aren’t going to consider that side of it, until about two or three hours before the new military junta, which seized power in a coup d’etat the day before, has them all lined up against a wall and shot.

      • Charles II said

        I don’t think parochial schools on the whole deliver an inferior education. Many are quite good, and IMO there’s less variance in performance than among other private schools.

        However, they do this at cost. First is by exploitation of the teachers, whose pay tends to be low. The second is by dividing the nation along religious lines. In the latter, they’re no worse than many Protestant sects. Still, spending tax dollars to knock down teacher salaries and teach religious exclusion is problematic. That’s why we have an Establishment clause.

    • Mark Gisleson said

      The problems with parochial schools are countless, but again, the issue is: do you have a quality public school available? If not, leave the parochial schools alone until you’ve fixed public education.

      There are no style points in this debate. The only numbers that count are the total number of kids properly educated. You can take the Jesus out later a lot easier than you can teach adults critical thinking skills which can be learned as easily from a bible as from an anthology of multiracial lesbian poetry.

      • Charles II said

        Mark, I wish you’d respond to the point that the only consistent predictor of educational failure is socioeconomic status. If that’s the major driving factor, then I’d go along with the point that we should belay the parochial/public debate if you would concede that tax dollars going to support a religious institution would probably better be spent on raising employment among the poor.

      • Susan said

        Mark, I’m really curious as to how teaching someone from the bible, with all questions answered with ‘you have to have faith’, teaches someone critical thinking skills? Seems more like it’s teaching people to only believe in what they’re told, and to not think or reason things out for themselves.

      • Mark Gisleson said

        I’m not disagreeing with you guys on anything. I’m just saying don’t cut the money to parochial schools until you’ve ensured the competing public school is up to standards. If you look at case by case situations, you find states that starve public schools into ruinous situations, then feed money to parochial schools that are clearly doing a better because the same GOoPer pols who starve our public schools can’t wait to shovel tax dollars to parochials schools. That’s wrong, but them’s the cards we’ve been dealt..

        All I’m saying is get those public schools fixed before you cut off the parochial schools. Getting the kids educated is job one. Fixing this horrendous decades-in-the-making destruction of public schools is critical, but in the meantime you have to fund some evil to avoid the greater evil of kids not getting properly educated at all.

        As for religious indoctrination, yeah, every hard core atheist sum bitch I know, myself included, had a strict religious upbringing. Yes, Catholic schools indoctrinate kids, but why then are American Catholics, generically speaking, so lax about following church teachings? Parochial schools just teach kids how to hate nuns.

  3. Susan said

    “Furthermore, why is public money being shoveled at non-public schools, religious or otherwise, without any form of accountability?”
    Here’s the plan.
    1. take money away from struggling school systems with the voucher system.
    2. thus destroying rather than saving the public school system.
    3. so, no more public schools, no need for the federal education dept., just voucher money going to private schools.
    4. once all public schools are gone, cut back or eliminate the vouchers, because if everyone is going to private schools, why do we need vouchers?
    5. then, only those who can afford school, get an education. because the poor don’t really benefit from an education anyways, right, it’s just wasted on them. And of course parents can still home school, and teach their children as much or as little as they want.
    Of course, next then to be destroyed will have to be the public libraries, filthy places letting kids read all sorts of books, and letting people read books for free!! Oh wait, they’ve already started on the libraries: cutting funding to the bone. NO more free books for the masses.

  4. Charles II said

    It’s a shame you’re not kidding, Susan.

    The plan is re-establishing the monarchy. Definitely one of the craziest, worst thought-out plans ever.

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