Sunday, August 12, 2012

Louisiana's creationist "voucher" schools set to rake in $4 mil in public funding

"Charter" school. Sounds alright, doesn't it? The Republican party is a champion of charter schools or voucher programs, and are also proponents of homeschooling. But charter schools do nothing to help the public education system, which at one point, impressively enough, educated a generation of baby boomers and post-baby boomers.

The boomers are said to be the largest and most educated group of people in the history of the public school system. The things that generation accomplished have a marked effect on modern life, some obvious and visible examples being the vast majority of the infrastructure Americans use every day. The US's public education system churned out the generation that built some of the world's most impressive dams, bridges, interstates and skyscrapers, and let's not forget our baby boomer tech giants Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. But, as Chomsky points out, a debate has long raged over the very nature of education, and whether intellectual independence and curiosity should be a part of public schooling at all. Republicans have decided that education is a cost, one that can be cut with little explanation, except for one based on lies about shortfalls in social security caused by the mass retirement of baby-boomers.

The last decade in particular has seen an acceleration in dismantling and defunding the public education system, despite the fact that that very system is handling a new boomer generation which is purported to be larger than the group of post World War II babies whose namesake is used by Republican politicians to justify this nefarious activity.

Louisiana's new law, which effectively privatizes education through a charter school system is one of the bolder social experiments of this kind. The law shifts tens of millions of dollars of public funds to 120 private schools which includes bible schools, industry trade groups, online classes and tutors. Any student of any income background is eligible under this new law for a voucher, which pays for the private education. The money to pay for that private education is then taken out of that student's local public school's funding. At least 19 of these publicly funded private charter schools teaches creationism. These 19 schools are expected to rake in $4 million in state funds. (Reuters):
Of the plans so far put forward, Louisiana's plan is by far the broadest. This month, eligible families, including those with incomes nearing $60,000 a year, are submitting applications for vouchers to state-approved private schools.
That list includes some of the most prestigious schools in the state, which offer a rich menu of advanced placement courses, college-style seminars and lush grounds. The top schools, however, have just a handful of slots open. The Dunham School in Baton Rouge, for instance, has said it will accept just four voucher students, all kindergartners. As elsewhere, they will be picked in a lottery.
Far more openings are available at smaller, less prestigious religious schools, including some that are just a few years old and others that have struggled to attract tuition-paying students.
The school willing to accept the most voucher students -- 314 -- is New Living Word in Ruston, which has a top-ranked basketball team but no library. Students spend most of the day watching TVs in bare-bones classrooms. Each lesson consists of an instructional DVD that intersperses Biblical verses with subjects such chemistry or composition.
The Upperroom Bible Church Academy in New Orleans, a bunker-like building with no windows or playground, also has plenty of slots open. It seeks to bring in 214 voucher students, worth up to $1.8 million in state funding.
At Eternity Christian Academy in Westlake, pastor-turned-principal Marie Carrier hopes to secure extra space to enroll 135 voucher students, though she now has room for just a few dozen. Her first- through eighth-grade students sit in cubicles for much of the day and move at their own pace through Christian workbooks, such as a beginning science text that explains "what God made" on each of the six days of creation. They are not exposed to the theory of evolution.
"We try to stay away from all those things that might confuse our children," Carrier said.
Other schools approved for state-funded vouchers use social studies texts warning that liberals threaten global prosperity; Bible-based math books that don't cover modern concepts such as set theory; and biology texts built around refuting evolution.
The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that vouchers can be used for religious education so long as the state is not promoting any one faith but letting parents choose where to enroll their children.
In Louisiana, Superintendent of Education John White said state officials have at one time or another visited all 120 schools in the voucher program and approved their curricula, including specific texts. He said the state plans more "due diligence" over the summer, including additional site visits to assess capacity.
In general, White said he will leave it to principals to be sure their curriculum covers all subjects kids need and leave it to parents to judge the quality of each private school on the list.
That infuriates the teachers union, which is weighing a lawsuit accusing the state of improperly diverting funds from public schools to private programs of questionable value.
"Because it's private, it's considered to be inherently better," said Steve Monaghan, president of the Louisiana Federation of Teachers. "From a consumer perspective, it's buyer beware."
Unfamiliar with Creationist beliefs? Mother Jones lists 14 wacky "facks" kids in Lousiana's voucher schools will learn. Below are the top six. (Sourced from actual text books used in creationist school curriculum).

"Dinosaur"   Jesus Horse.

1. Dinosaurs and humans coexisted because evolution is a lie. The world is actually thousands of years old. Not billions.

2. Dragons were real.

3. "God used the Trail of Tears to bring many Indians to Christ."America: Land That I Love, Teacher ed., A Beka Book, 1994

4. Africa needs religion. —Old World History and Geography in Christian Perspective, 3rd ed., A Beka Book, 2004

5. Slaves had it pretty good. "A few slave holders were undeniably cruel. Examples of slaves beaten to death were not common, neither were they unknown. The majority of slave holders treated their slaves well."United States History for Christian Schools, 2nd ed., Bob Jones University Press, 1991

6. KKK wasn't so bad either. (Yes. For real) "[The Ku Klux] Klan in some areas of the country tried to be a means of reform, fighting the decline in morality and using the symbol of the cross. Klan targets were bootleggers, wife-beaters, and immoral movies. In some communities it achieved a certain respectability as it worked with politicians."United States History for Christian Schools, 3rd ed., Bob Jones University Press, 2001

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