MYTHS ABOUT PAROCHIAID
The self-interest groups who would benefit from tax aid to parochial
schools have been successful in building a mythology about the
benefits to the general public of such aid. We need to set the
record straight and help demolish some of those myths.
No matter what name is given to it this year, parochiaid (tax aid to
nonpublic religious schools) is wrong legally, morally and
The current push seems to be for what are called educational
vouchers. This voucher is a piece of paper given to the parents, who
will give it to the school of their choice, which will then demand
money from the government. Whether this is a good practice among
PUBLIC schools or not, I will leave up to others. When proposed for
private, religious schools, it is an attempt to circumvent the law.
On the state level we have the New York State Constitution. Article
XI, Section 3, is very specific. (See quotation below.) Neither
direct nor indirect aid is permitted.
Even if we didn't have that prohibition, the First Amendment has
been interpreted to prohibit government aid to sectarian education.
Only one state - Wisconsin - has implemented a voucher plan, and
that was limited to NONSECTARIAN private schools.
Tax funds for religious schools remains a topic for debate. A
Republican Rochester mayoral candidate has said "The money will come
directly from the school district budget. The City School District
will have to adjust to fewer students and less money ..." A bill
before the New York legislature would provide tuition monies.
Various "christian" groups have organized to wring these funds out
of the taxpayer.
Why do parochiaid advocates constantly push for public funds? It is
something which we may call the "greed factor." They have been
successful in making some inroads into the public treasury, and this
makes them want more. If you read information about the religious
schools you will find that most admit that the school does not just
have a course in religion; it infuses religion into everything
taught. Religious schools seek to indoctrinate pupils from an early
age. The advocates of vouchers really want you and me to pay for
their children's religious education.
Benjamin Franklin's thoughts on this seem pertinent: "When a
religion is good, I conceive it will support itself; and when it
does not support itself, and God does not take care to support it so
that its professors are obliged to call for help of the civil power,
'tis a sign, I apprehend, of its being a bad one."
The majority of the mainline Protestant denominations do not feel
the need to run religious schools. (Maybe they will if government
decides to fund them.) Many of these denominations believe that
segregation by religion could be bad for our heterogeneous society.
Seventh-day Adventists have the third largest private education
system in the country, and they oppose government funding.
Usually government regulates what it subsidizes. If it underwrites
these private schools, it will have a right and a responsibility to
ensure that the funds are being spent for sound educational
services. The teachers may have to become certified; they may have
to be paid more. Tuitions may have to go up; voucher values may have
to be increased.
"Parental choice" is the latest catch word. This is a meaningless
concept in church schools. The religious leaders have the only
"choice" of who is admitted. They will admit anyone they want to
convert or indoctrinate. They eject or do not admit the problem
cases. Parental choice does not carry with it the right to public
Does the public want aid to religious schools? The results of
referenda in sixteen states and the District of Columbia have given
a resounding "NO!" The vote has been typically two to one against.
Will vouchers make public schools better? There is no evidence to
support this assertion. Public schools will improve only if
government officials and the public decide to make a serious
commitment to educational quality. If there is one "pie"
representing monies for education, and you take a piece of it for
religious schools, public schools will suffer. If you increase the
"pie," that means increasing taxes.
Is competition good for education? Private and public schools do not
compete on a level playing field. Public schools must accept all
regardless of academic ability, family circumstances, or physical
handicaps. Is it fair for public money to flow to schools which
discriminate on the basis of religion when hiring teachers and
staff? What will happen when a public school is forced to close
because of inadequate financial resources? These schools will likely
be in poor areas where sound public education is vital.
Can vouchers be limited to certain private schools? Government
cannot be the arbiter of religion. Radical groups and those with
political views or theology which might be distasteful to most
Americans would be promoted with your tax money.
Vouchers for religious schools would be destructive to the schools
which service some 88% of the populace. They would be a step toward
full state funding of religious schools. They should be opposed by
all who believe in the concepts of our founding fathers. As
President John F. Kennedy said: "I believe in an America where the
separation of church and state is absolute ... where no church or
church school is granted any public funds or political preference
Article XI, Section 3, New York State Constitution:
"Neither the state nor any subdivision thereof shall use its
property or credit or any public money, or authorize or permit
either to be used, directly or indirectly, in aid or maintenance,
other than for examination and inspection, of any school or
institution of learning, in whole or in part under the control or
direction of any religious denomination or in which any
denominational tenet or doctrine is taught, but the legislature may
provide for the transportation of children to and from any school or
institution of learning."
The constitutions of many states contain similar prohibitions.