By Charles Sumner (firstname.lastname@example.org)
In Wisconsin, according to its IRS filings, the purpose of Clara Muhammad School is to engage in “a Qur’an-guided journey.” It is funded almost exclusively through vouchers. In 2011, only 0.8 percent of its students (1 out of 123) tested proficient in math and 5.7 percent tested proficient in reading on state exams. There is a Clara Muhammad School in Nashville. [Editor's note: see The Praeger Handbook of Faith-Based Schools in the United States, K–12 edited by Thomas C. Hunt, James C. Carper - chpt. 40 pg. 117-118 for more information on the Sister Clara Muhammad Schools.]
In Indiana, 97% of vouchers went to religious schools. The figure is 80% in DC. Some 85% of private schools nationally are religious. In Nashville, about half of the religious schools are Catholic. Bishop Joseph P. McFadden, chairman of the bishops’ Committee on Catholic Education, calls Catholic schools “centers for the New Evangelization.”
Religious schools exist to promote the faith of the faith traditions that sponsor them. Often, religion permeates every subject. Religious schools should be supported by the members of the faiths that sponsor them. Vouchers force everyone to support religious education. In addition, vouchers threaten the public school system by draining needed funds away from these institutions – even though public schools do not discriminate in matters of religion and serve 90 percent of America’s schoolchildren.
The American people do not support vouchers. In ballot referenda, voters have defeated tax aid to religious schools 24 times since 1967.
As of February (2013) there is a school voucher bill (SB196) about which you should contact Tennessee legislators. The first line of defense against passage is to convince a majority of those on the Education Committees to vote against it [House][Senate]. Your comment will weigh more if you are a constituent of one of them. You may obtain more detailed information by contacting President@Nashville-AU.org.
There is much opposition to this foot-in-the-door voucher plan. Nashville Metro Council, many public school officials, a new grassroots group, and we think soon the Nashville League of Women Voters will express opposition. If you are free on a Tuesday or Wednesday, you can make an appointment with your legislators. Someone might go with you. A starting place is www.capitol.tn.gov. There you can find out who your representatives are. They may have changed after redistricting. You can determine whether your rep is on an education committee. And if it gets thru committee, some Republican legislators will be needed to stop it.
There are several things going on with reference to vouchers. Americans United and Standing Together 4 Strong Community Schools have called at the offices of legislators and spoken directly to 8 of the 24 on the three committees which will review the bill. We invite your participation on a Tuesday or Wednesday. The League of Women Voters has a panel discussion at Peabody at 4 on February 7, The L-Club has a talk the evening of February 9. Nashville Peace and Justice Center has a panel the evening of February 11. There will be a Day-on-the-Hill of progressive organizations March 12, which will include this issue and others.
“It is proper to take alarm at the first experiment on our liberties. We hold this prudent jealousy to be the first duty of Citizens and one of the noblest characteristics of the late Revolution. The free men of America did not wait till usurped power had strengthened itself by exercise and entangled the question in precedents. They saw all the consequences in the principle, and they avoided the consequences by denying the principle. We revere this lesson too much soon to forget it.” James Madison, Memorial and Remonstrance against Religious Assessments ¶3.
(For more information visit Nashville Chapter Americans United for Separation of Church and State)