A couple of days ago, Louisiana Superintendent of Education John White unceremoniously announced that he intends to withhold any and all public records concerning his Department’s deliberation about the selection of voucher schools until, at least, a few weeks after the beginning of the school year. After first hearing of White’s decision to withhold records, I posited a theory, which has been echoed and independently asserted by several others: There was no “deliberative process,” and, once revealed, Superintendent White’s records will likely demonstrate that he and his staff completely failed to properly vet and scrutinize the schools they approved for taxpayer-funded vouchers.
Thanks to Zack Kopplin, we know that at least nineteen of the 119 approved schools teach new earth creationism, and thanks to Jason Berry of the American Zombie, we now also know that another school approved by Jindal and White is owned and operated by a self-proclaimed “prophet.” Several of the approved schools are in dire financial shape; one of them is still led, in part, by a woman who pled guilty to defrauding her own school.
And also disturbingly, at least two of the schools approved for taxpayer-funded vouchers reserve the right to expel a student for their religious beliefs or for their sexual orientation. Northlake Christian Elementary and High School, both in Covington were approved for 46 voucher positions, which will provide them with nearly $400,000 a year in subsidized funding. Here’s their policy on discrimination:
Northlake Christian School is non-discriminatory in its admission policies and does not offer preferential admission on the basis of race, color, gender, national origin, or ancestry.
NCS reserves the right to refuse admission or hire on the basis of religious belief and/or lifestyle choices contrary to the school Mission Statement or Biblical standards. Families, for example, who deny the deity of Christ will be denied admission as the NCS Mission Statement asserts that the mission of the school is “to assist the Christian community” and Article #3 of the school Doctrinal Statement affirms the deity of Christ. In the same way, families or students who choose to pursue or promote a homosexual lifestyle will be refused admission or hire because of the Biblical standards set forth in Lev. 18:20; Lev. 20:13; 1 Kings 14:24; Romans 1:24, 26-27; and 1 Cor. 6:9.
They’re “non-discriminatory,” except when it means they’re discriminatory.
I anticipate that some folks may read this and argue that it’s perfectly legitimate for a religious institution to set its own admissions criteria and hiring standards. I agree: It is. That’s not the issue. Thankfully, there are federal and state laws against using taxpayer funds to discriminate on the basis of religion and sexual orientation (though, to be sure, sexual orientation is less protected).
Northlake Christian audaciously puts its policy in print, but I don’t think it’s any stretch of the imagination to assume that several other schools that Governor Jindal and Superintendent White endorsed for voucher funding enforce the same exact policy. And it shouldn’t be too surprising, either; after all, 99% of the schools approved for funding are religious schools.
But it’s important: Non-discriminatory admissions policies are absolutely critical to the Supreme Court’s analysis of the constitutionality of school vouchers. (More later). In blatantly advertising its own bigoted admissions and employment policies, Northlake Christian demonstrates a few things: (1) Superintendent White, once again, failed to properly vet the schools he and his staff approved for funding; (2) More than likely, this is because Superintendent White didn’t really vet any school; (3) Superintendent White and Governor Jindal’s failures are evidence of their dereliction of duty and complete lack of administrative oversight, oversight that may have otherwise ensured constitutional and legal compliance; (4) For this and many other reasons, Jindal’s voucher plan is facially unconstitutional.
Also, while many of these schools haven’t condoned discrimination like the two above have, if you read their discrimination policies closely, something stands out. They only have what is required by law. Given their record, many have likely left room to discriminate and still do, even if they aren’t blatantly declaring it in their discrimination policy.
Thank you, Zack. Without question, Northlake’s policies represent the tip of the iceberg.
I would argue that White and Jindall HAVE vetted these schools and know exactly what the policies are. That is the point. They want to break down the barriers for public funding of religion.
Unless of course the religion is Islam. or Hindu. or Buddhism. or…
Less publicized are the discriminatory policies against kids with disabilities and special education needs. Basically, the voucher schools don’t have to accept them (unless parents renounce their rights to the needed programs and accommodations). Even the simplest accommodations won’t have to be made. Eventually, the public schools will be like the special schools of the old days. And this isn’t just for kids with autism or behavioral challenges, it’s for kids with learning disabilities, vision impairments, mobility impairments, health concerns like seizures or asthma, and on and on. Here’s 2 articles about the issue: http://advocacyla.org/index.php/news-reader/items/louisianas-school-voucher-program-a-challenge-for-students-with-disabilities.html and http://seattletimes.com/html/nationworld/2018947146_apusbacktoschoolspecialeducation.html
You can choose as long as we want you, is what the schools are saying.
What did A.G. Crowe end up doing with this bill in the last session? This is exactly why it was introduced….to bypass this potential legal threat to the voucher system. I remember he immediately started crawfishing on it when he felt the heat but I’m sure Mills is reworking this bill and we’ll see a new version of it in the 2013 session.