More reactions to Schools Without Rules article

Last weekend the Orlando Sentinel ran an article that’s part of their Schools Without Rules series that investigates private schools that accept public money via various scholarships (aka vouchers): Private schools’ curriculum downplays slavery, says humans and dinosaurs lived together. In a previous post I highlighted some reactions to the article, good and bad. Now a few more reactions have appeared.

First, the Orlando Sentinel ran an editorial: End the double standard for Florida schools educating students with public dollars.

The revelations in Sunday’s story underscore the need for legislators to make another, more serious attempt to raise the bar at private schools subsidized with state scholarships. The next round needs to include some standards for instructional materials. Policymakers owe it to students with state scholarships, and to taxpayers footing the bill.

This should not be hard sell — if those policymakers want all students educated with public money to excel.

Then writer Lauren Ritchie took a shot at the private schools: Florida must stop paying $1 billion a year to ‘educate’ children in fringe religious nonsense.

“Tim Dees, director of Downey Christian School in east Orange County, where 90 percent of his 275 students rely on state scholarships to pay tuition, defended his school: ‘We believe our way is correct. We focus on creationism because that’s what we believe.’

“No problem. Do fundamentalists want their kids to learn a bunch of hillbilly science? Handle venomous snakes? Learn that God looks down on Catholics, that America would still have slavery except ’some power-hungry individuals stirred up the people’? Knock yourself out. Just don’t expect anyone else to pay for it, and stop calling it ‘education.’ It’s not. It’s more like a 12-year sentence to some anamorphic Sunday school class from hell with no time off for good behavior.”

Writer Scott Maxwell also jumped aboard: Enough fraud, scandal and excuses. 5 ways to clean up Florida’s voucher-school mess.

But first, let’s talk about how the voucher industry — and it is an industry, funded by nearly $1 billion of your tax dollars and corporate tax credits — has responded.

With whining, deflection and excuses.

Claims of faith-bashing. What malarkey. I’m a lifelong Christian, a church elder and former Sunday school teacher. I’m not opposed to Christianity. I’m opposed to ignorance. And child-endangerment. And defrauding taxpayers. People who defend these messes at Christian schools with claims of faith-bashing don’t do their faith any favors.

Five things need to happen. (…) 4. Curriculum plans should be filed with the state. Parents deserve to know what is being taught. Taxpayers deserve to know what curriculum they’re funding.

And some breaking news: Scholarship programs at private schools need change, lawmakers say.

Central Florida lawmakers say they’d like to strengthen the rules, including new curriculum standards, for private schools that receive state vouchers after an Orlando Sentinel story showed some schools use textbooks with distorted history and science lessons that are outside mainstream academics.

Will anything actually change? Stay tuned …

About Brandon Haught

Communications Director for Florida Citizens for Science.
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