Taxpayers from 14 states invest almost $1billion every year for tuition fees in private schools where religious classes teach students that the earth is less than 10,000 years old, Adam and Eve walked around Eden with dinosaurs and most of modern geology, biology and cosmology is nothing but a web of lies. Recent developments in the United States point towards a sharp increase in such investments this year.
While decades of litigation have ensured that public schools do not teach intelligent design or creationism to students, private schools with public subsidies have the free will to do exactly that. A recent review of hundreds of textbooks and course outlines have found that most faith-based private schools go beyond teaching the Bible’s contents as a literal fact. The curricula encourage disdaining the secular world, distrusting momentous discoveries and disapproving mainstream scientists. Students are often taught distorted facts about scientific methods because the schools in concern believe that evolutionary theories are highly speculative since they have not been elevated to the status of scientific law. A certain set of books given to students in Christian schools refers to evolution as “a wicked and vain” philosophy and another scorns “modern math theorists” as people who fail to see mathematics as an absolute law laid down by God.
According to the National Conference of State Legislature, close to 26 states are considering the ratification of new voucher programs or expanding the existing ones. One idea that has gained popularity in eight states is the setting up of individual bank accounts stocked with state funds so that parents can invest not only in tuition but also on tutors and textbooks. On March 21, Arizona Supreme Court ruled in favour of this approach and lawmakers have already started working on broadening the eligibility.
Currently, approximately 250,000 students use such vouchers and tax-credit scholarships but that is only a fraction of the 55 million public school students in America. However, the number has increased by 30 percent since 2010. In Florida, lawmakers speculate that public subsidies are likely to increase from $286 million in 2014 to $700 million in 2018. The channeling of public funds to religious schools at a time when scientists are trying to understand the origins of the universe is a fear for those who stress on science education.
“I don’t think the function of public education is to prepare students for the turn of the 19th century,” said Eric Meikle, project director at the National Center for Science Education.
However, participating parents believe that the state should help them pay for an education that reflects their values. In most cases that refers to the book of Genesis and not to The Origin of Species.
Leah Fernandez, mother of two from Georgia, said she wants her children to learn all views but uses state subsidies to send them to a Christian school, as she believes a biblical education as essential.
“My children’s spiritual development is for sure No. 1 on the list,” she said.
Supporters of vouchers have skillfully built networks of allies in different states. Pro-voucher group American Federation for Children for instance has spent as much as $18 million on campaigns since 2007. Americans for Prosperity is another such group that has worked towards providing subsidies in private schools in 10 states including Tennessee, Maine, Wisconsin and Virginia. Since the groundwork seems to be completed, the fight for vouchers is now moving to statehouses.