MYTHS ABOUT PAROCHIAID The self-interest groups who would benefit from tax aid to parochia

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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 empirically. 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 funding. 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. CHARLES SUMNER---

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