Conservative families have long been accustomed to funding a public education system that teaches values contrary to their own. Now, a Florida program that uses public tax credits to support private scholarships for low-income students at parochial schools is under fire because Christian schools are, well, Christian. Having failed to defeat school-choice programs on the merits, the Left is turning to anti-religious bigotry to attack Florida’s Tax Credit Scholarship Program, which serves more than 100,000 children.
Florida’s initiative, the nation’s largest school-choice program, has faced a sustained assault from the local press for the Christian curricula of some of its participating schools. The Huffington Post created a chart chronicling the “offensive” views that Christian schools teach, from creationism to Biblical distinctions between the sexes. The Orlando Sentinel called what students learn at private schools “hillbilly science” and “a 12-year sentence to some anamorphic Sunday school class from hell.” The Left’s anti-school-choice hysteria increasingly echoes Senator Dianne Feinstein’s chiding of Judge Amy Coney Barrett last year: “the dogma lives loudly within you.”
Media attacks on the curricula and values in schools of choice rarely include an examination of the values on offer at taxpayer-funded public schools. In 2016, a Palm Beach high school teacher’s final exam included the question, “If Donald Trump becomes President of the United States, we are: A. Screwed, B. Screwed, C. Screwed, or D. Screwed behind a really YUGE wall that Mexico pays for.” Another school took its cheerleading squad and band to perform at a Hillary Clinton political rally as a field trip. A third Florida school required students to recite “There is no god but God; Muhammad is the prophet of God.” None of these incidents got much play in the Sentinel.
In Albuquerque, New Mexico, an elementary school instructed teachers not to refer to students as “boys” and “girls,” in order to make transgender students feel more welcome. In California, a teacher was placed on administrative leave for suggesting that if students were allowed to walk out of class without consequence to protest for gun control, they should also be permitted to cut school to oppose abortion. In Vermont, a high school flew a Black Lives Matter flag to celebrate Black History Month. And hundreds of public school districts across the country partner with Planned Parenthood to teach a sex-education curriculum that many parents find objectionable. In my own public high school, the debunked theory that Ronald Reagan was senile for the latter years of his administration was taught as fact in history class.
Disagreements among parental supporters and critics of the aggressively secular public school curriculum are unlikely to disappear soon. America is not only an ethnically, religiously, and culturally diverse nation, but also a place where families often disagree on what a good education should look like. Those who want to yank scholarships out of the hands of low-income kids because they object to public support for Christian education don’t think twice about forcing deeply religious parents to pay taxes to teach progressive values, even as many of those parents pay double freight for their own children’s private educations.
Any potential solution should follow the model of higher education: fund the student, not the school. Public investment in education is vital in a republic, but there’s no reason why taxpayers must bankroll a monolithic agenda. It’s time to empower parents to take back their role as directors of their children’s educations. In Florida, the tax-credit scholarship program is doing just that.
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