Monday, April 11, 2005

Regulation is too High a Price for Vouchers

Posted on Mon, Apr. 11, 2005

Regulation is too High a Price for Vouchers
By Michele Quinones
Special to the Star-Telegram

During the last election cycle, active Texas Republicans gathered in state Senate district conventions and finally at the Texas Republican State Convention. Appointed committees worked on platform language detailing the beliefs of local or state Republicans on many issues, including educational vouchers or school choice.

In Tarrant County, the platforms for Senate Districts 10 and 12 did not support vouchers, primarily because of the regulation of private schools that would come with government funding.

District 12's platform said: "The Party, an uncompromising supporter of private and home schools and private and home school autonomy, does not recommend vouchers/tax credits (child-centered school funding) for private schools and home schools. Private and home school parents already have the maximum freedom to choose the content and goal of their children's education. Accepting government money will turn private schools into public schools and thus will diminish the parent's freedom to determine the content and goal of their children's education."

District 10's platform plank was very similar.

These Republicans realized that private schools that take government money will become government schools. Many active Republicans from the Tarrant County area do not support vouchers.

The state party platform supports vouchers but includes these words: "This measure could only be considered upon passage of a state constitutional amendment that prohibits imposition of state regulations on private and parochial schools." The Republicans at this convention did not want any of the regulation on private schools that would come with government money.

State Rep. Bob Griggs, R-North Richland Hills, has openly opposed vouchers. Other representatives and senators from District 10 and District 12 back vouchers.

Our legislators must get the message that we do not want the government to regulate our private schools.

Government money always brings uniformity and regimentation, less freedom and less choice. When private or home schools take government money, jurisdiction over children's education is taken out of parents' hands and is placed into those of the government.

In the landmark 2002 decision of Zelman vs. Simmons-Harris, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a voucher program that is neutral in regard to religion would pass constitutional muster. Private schools that accept voucher money must admit students regardless of religious faith.

Schools will not be able to screen students on the basis of criminal activity, truancy or academic ability. This would drastically change the way that private and religious schools handle admissions.

Private schools also would be required to educate handicapped and special-education students. However, without federal assistance, private schools would not have the funds necessary to follow federal rules regarding the education of these students. This assistance would bring more government regulation into private schools.

One of the current voucher bills, House Bill 1263, says that in order to participate in the Texas voucher program, a qualifying school must "not advocate or foster unlawful behavior or teach hatred of any person or group on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, or religion."

How would a parochial school handle this requirement? How would the courts rule regarding offensive teaching? Would the Christian teaching regarding salvation, taken from the Bible, be considered hateful toward other religions?

There is no way to know the answers to these questions until there is a court challenge.

The traditional, classic literature that students in these schools are reading, including the Bible, would offend many students. These religious schools would have to change their reading material, curriculum and goals.

The Texas House is considering four voucher bills and will vote on them very soon. If you are a parent who sends your child to a private or parochial school, or a Republican or citizen who cares about protecting the individual rights and freedoms of private and home school students, you must contact your representative.

Let that person know that you oppose to an educational voucher system.

Michele Quinones of Haltom City is active in the Republican Party. She teaches sixth- and seventh-grade history and math in a private school.

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