It’s not surprising McDonald would take that line. Across the country, Catholic schools are being shuttered as more and more parents realize that the public schools are doing a good job and that the money they’re spending on Catholic school tuition might be better socked away in a college fund.
Church officials are essentially seeking a taxpayer-funded bailout for their flagging school system – a system that even many church members have decided they don’t want to patronize. One wonders if McDonald has ever heard of the law of supply and demand?
The issue of accountability is also interesting. My guess is that, given the religious make-up of Tennessee, many of the schools taking part in a voucher plan will be aligned with fundamentalist Christianity. What type of science will these schools teach? What type of history? How will the students who attend them perform on standardized tests? Will they be able to get into colleges?
But the elephant in the room is Islamic schools. Will the state fund those as well with its vouchers?
Beth Harwell, speaker of the Tennessee House of Representatives, was asked about this recently by the Marshall Tribune. One gets the impression that Harwell was a bit uncomfortable answering the question.
‘I think it would be a constitutional issue,’ Harwell said. She added, ‘It is one that we would have to weigh very carefully as a legislature.’
Still fumbling, Harwell then said, ‘I think that, in itself, causes real alarm in the halls of the legislature. Having said that, I think we will seriously look at vouchers…. All those concerns are valid ones, legitimate ones. There is no easy answer.’
Alarm bells? Do you think? This is the state, after all, where residents actually went to court to try to stop a mosque from opening in Murfreesboro.
And don’t think this is a theoretical matter. Two Islamic schools in Washington, D.C., have received taxpayer funding under House Speaker John Boehner’s federally funded voucher program for the District of Columbia. Courts have been clear on this matter: Benefits that are extended to one religion must be made available to all.
Harwell says they is no ‘easy answer’ to problems like this. Sure there is: Don’t pass a voucher plan. Focus funding on public schools. If some of the public schools are experiencing problems, give them the support and resources they need to improve.