By Zack Kopplin:
Stop Governor Jindal’s Creationist Voucher Program Before Governor Romney Takes it Nationwide
Louisiana is preparing to spend over $11 million to send 1,306 students to 19 private schools that teach creationism instead of science as part of Governor Bobby Jindal’s new voucher program. It is time to halt the implementation of this creationist voucher program.
It is increasingly clear that one of Governor Jindal’s primary education goals is the teaching of creationism. He supported, signed , and defended the Louisiana Science Education Act (LSEA), Louisiana’s 2008 stealth creationism law, which allows teachers to sneak creationism into public school science classrooms by using creationist supplemental materials. Despite hearing from 78 Nobel laureate scientists who urged him to repeal the law because teaching creationism is both bad science and unconstitutional, Jindal instead defended the law.
Now Governor Jindal has passed a voucher plan which provides millions of taxpayer dollars to private schools that teach creationism and whose curriculum doesn’t meet the state’s approved science standards.
My review of the Governor’s voucher program identifies at least 19 schools who use a creationist curriculum or blatantly promote creationism on their websites. These 19 schools have been awarded 1,306 voucher slots and can receive as much as $11,101,000 in taxpayer money annually.
- The handbook of the Claiborne Christian School, in West Monroe, LA, says that students are taught to “discern and refute lies commonly found in [secular] textbooks, college classrooms, and in the media.” In the January 2010 school newsletter, the principal promotes young-earth creationist talking points from Answers in Genesis, saying, “Our position at CCS on the age of the Earth and other issues is that any theory that goes against God’s Word is in error.” She also claims that scientists are “sinful men” trying to explain the world “without God” so they don’t have to be “morally accountable to Him.” CCS has 28 voucher slots and can receive up to $238,000 in public money.
- The student handbook of Faith Academy, in Gonzalez, LA, says that in this Household of Faith school, students must “defend creationism through evidence presented by the Bible verses [sic] traditional scientific theory.” FA has 38 voucher slots and can receive up to $323,000 in public money.
- Ascension Christian High School, in Gonzales, also a Household of Faith school is Faith Academy’s high school campus. It has 80 voucher slots and can receive up to $680,000 in public money.
- Northeast Baptist School, in West Monroe, uses ABeka and Bob Jones University science textbooks. Researcher and writer Rachel Tabachnick, who examined these textbooks, reports that it is “clear that no instruction is included in the text that would conflict with young earth creationism.” Using such books endangers the educational prospects of students in Christian schools. In 2010, the University of California won a federal lawsuit, ASCI [Association of Christian Schools International] v. Stearns, in which the judge ruled in favor of UC’s right to refuse to recognize high school credits for science classes taken in Christian schools that used such books. UC contended that such instruction is “inconsistent with the viewpoints and knowledge generally accepted in the scientific community.” NBS has 40 voucher slots and can receive up to $340,000 in public money.
- Northlake Christian Elementary School, in Covington, LA, teaches science using both ASCI’s “Purposeful Design Series” and ABeka materials. One Purposeful Design science notebook requires students to “discuss your thoughts about how the complexity of a cell shows that it must be purposefully designed.” NCES, which specifies that “all curricular content is filtered through and presented within a Christian worldview,” has 20 voucher slots and can receive up to $170,000 in public money.
- Northlake Christian High School in Covington uses a secular science textbook but also “integrate[s]” material from “biblical-young-earth, Christian/Creationists,” according to Northlake’s high school biology teacher. He uses sources from Creation Ministries International, Answers in Genesis, and the Institute for Creation Research. This teacher also quotes a creationist book that says, “No coherent, cohesive theology has yet been offered that would allow Christians to embrace evolution with integrity.” Disturbingly, NCHS’s student handbookincludes a discrimination policy against prospective students and staff who do not meet “Biblical standards.” NCHS has 30 voucher slots and can receive up to $255,000 in public money.
- New Living Word School, operated by New Living Word Ministries in Ruston, LA, teaches its students with “an instructional DVD that intersperses Biblical verses with subjects such [as] chemistry.” The school probably uses ABeka materials. According to the website, the church created a program for suspended and expelled Lincoln Parish public school students using “the A-Beka Christian Academy Homeschooling Program.” On top of all of this, the NLW School doesn’t even have the facilities to accommodate voucher students. Nonetheless, it has 315 voucher slots and can receive up to $2,677,500 in public money.
- Eternity Christian Academy in Westlake, LA, uses the infamous ACE (Accelerated Christian Education) curriculum. Curriculum publisher ACE Ministries is guided by “God’s Mandate for Christian Education,” in which evolutionary theory is described as “extremely damaging to children individually and to society as a whole” because it “denies the principle of the individual’s accountability” to God. ECA has 135 voucher slots and can receive up to $1,147,500 in public money.
- Gethsemane Christian Academy, in Lafayette, LA, doesn’t appear to have a website, but the National Center for Education Statistics notes that it uses the ACE Curriculum. GCA has 100 voucher slots and can receive up to $850,000 in public money.
- The Upperroom Bible Church Academy, in New Orleans, says their “curriculum is dependent upon a biblical philosophy” and according to theNational Center for Education Statistics they use the ACE curriculum. They also claim to blatantly attempt to convert their students, saying “we endeavor to win all unsaved students to Jesus Christ.” On top of this, the large numbers of bad reviews from parents seem to suggest the school cares about money much more than the students. The Upperroom Bible Church Academy has 167 voucher slots and can receive up to $1,419,500 in public money annually.
- Jehovah-Jireh Christian Academy, in Baton Rouge uses both the ASCI Purposeful Design and ABeka curricula in science classes. JJA has 30 voucher slots and can receive up to $255,000 in public money.
- New Orleans Adventist Academy teaches a creationist curriculum, according to the New Orleans newspaper, Gambit. A science curriculum guide from the Southwest Region Conference of Seventh-Day Adventists, to which NOAA belongs, shows that Adventist schools teach children that “God, in six literal days, made the heavens and the earth.” The guide contains references both to young-earth and intelligent design creationist sources. NOAA has 100 voucher slots and can receive up to $850,000 in public money.
- Greater Mt. Olive Christian Academy, in Baton Rouge, uses the ABeka curriculum. GMOCA has 50 voucher slots and can receive up to $425,000 in public money.
- Faith Christian Academy, in Marrero, LA, uses the ABeka textbooks. FCA has 38 voucher slots and can receive up to $323,000 in public money.
- Victory Christian Academy, in Metairie, LA, uses ABeka and Bob Jones curricula. Its philosophy of science education is “to develop students in principles of science. . . teaching them to observe relationships and laws as established by God’s creative hand” and that “any teaching of man that is contrary to the clear understanding of scripture is in error.” VCA has 8 voucher slots and can receive up to $68,000 in public money.
- Lafayette Christian Academy, in Lafayette, LA, uses Bob Jones and ABeka. Its “primary objective” is to educate students “without compromising the Word of God.” LCA has 4 voucher slots and can receive up to $34,000 in public money.
- Cenla Christian Academy, in Pineville, LA, uses the ABeka and Bob Jones curricula. CCA has 72 voucher slots and can receive up to $612,000 in public money.
- Family Worship Christian Academy, in Opelousas, LA, offers “a stimulating learning environment for our students utilizing A Beka curriculum.” FWCA has 66 voucher slots and can receive up to $561,000 in public money.
- Trinity Christian Academy, in Zachary, LA, explained via e-mail that it uses ABeka to teach high school science. TCA has been given 35 voucher slots and can receive up to $297,500 in public money.
The schools listed here may be just the tip of the iceberg. The true number of creationist voucher schools approved to receive unconstitutionally misappropriated taxpayer dollars under Governor Jindal’s voucher program could be significantly higher. My analysis above lists only those schools that explicitly acknowledge teaching
creationism or creationist curriculum. Many more schools listed as approved by Governor’s voucher program are probably also planning to use creationist textbooks, since many of these are self-identified Christian academies that appear very similar in philosophy to the ones I’ve listed above.
The fact that these schools are teaching creationism isn’t the only problem. BeauVer Christian School in DeRidder can’t even meet the fire code and has been accused of financial improprieties, lawsuits have been filed to stop the implementation of the program, and the creators of the state program have already displayed major ethical lapses in trying to cover up their failure to adequately review schools applying for vouchers.
Governor Jindal claims that he created the voucher program because private schools would offer a better education for Louisiana students. The truth is that schools that teach creationism will give our students a worse education. Schools that teach creationism and do not meet Louisiana’s state science standards will not give our students a better education and have no business receiving public funds.
Since the justification for this program has fallen flat, Governor Jindal and the Department of Education should not implement it.
Every voucher school that taxpayers support with public dollars should be required to release its teaching materials for inspection by the public, just as all public schools are required to do.
Governor Jindal must do the right thing for Louisiana students and halt his voucher program’s implementation before any funds are allocated to schools that teach creationism instead of evidence based science.
Governor Jindal has been named Governor Romney’s education surrogate. That Governor Jindal could be nominated for Vice President by Governor Romney or be his Secretary of Education means that signing this Change.Org petition to halt the unconstitutional and creationist Louisiana voucher program is even more urgent.