Dark Christianity
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May 2008
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dogemperor [userpic]
[info]drgndancer's NOLA school post


Do you ever feel like you are betraying something important, but can't seem to think of a better idea?

First some background: The City of New Orleans has TERRIBLE public education. If it's not the worst in the country it's pretty darned close. Something like 80% of the schools are "failing" by federal standard; and while I'm not a big fan of standardized testing as a means of measuring school quality, as a former teacher in the district, these schools are "failing". The reasons for the failure of the schools system are many and varied, but amongst them are the fact that the school system has a small tax base (for complicated reasons), and the fact that many people don't want to pay school taxes because they send their kids to Catholic schools.

The Catholic school situation here is a vicious circle. In a city where over 50% of the population is Catholic, the Archdiocese has always run an excellent and very large school system. This system existed before the public school system and many, many people had their children in the Catholic system at the time that public schools first appeared. This has been the cause of a continual downward spiral of people not wanting to pay for schools that their kids don't attend, causing poor public schools, causing people to put their kids in Catholic Schools, causing people to not want to spend money on schools their kids don't attend.

In truth, we will probably send my children to Catholic schools here if we still live here at the time we have school age children. It's really the only choice available; it's that or send them to a horrible place where they won't learn anything. If we can't afford to have one of us stay home to home school, the kids will go to Catholic Schools (and they will not be the only non-Catholics, or even non- Christians to do so).

So anyway, that's the simple version of the situation pre-Katrina.
The Archdiocese has been pushing a school voucher plan for some time at the ate level, in order to (a) increase there number of students, and (b) try to help educate more of the children in the city in reasonable conditions. I truly do think that at least part of their motivation is a legitimate desire to help a bad situation, but I am sure there is greed involved as well. The State has resisted the voucher plan for years. They have long believed (correctly I think) that the way to save the New Orleans Public education system is not to gut it further.

That was then; this is now. Long story short, Katrina has decimated the already fragile public school system here. It is unlikely that the city will be able to open more than one each of an elementary, middle, and high school on the East Bank of the River for the fall semester. Even that much relies on making them charter schools run either internally (no school board interference), or by an outside agency (Tulane University has offered to run some). The local school board (have I mentioned the school board is horrifyingly mismanaged?) is reluctant to give up any power and may not approve the charters.
Just so we're clear, this is the local school bard screwing things up, not the State Education Dept. (BESE for Board of Elementary and Secondary Educations is the state board).

Into this crisis come the Archdiocese, who say that they can educate 3000 students right now. If we are going to rebuild, we have to have places for people to live and places for those people's kids to go to school. BESE is listening, and I can't say that I blame them.

One the plus side of the equation is the obvious, we will get schools for people to send their kids too. On the minus side are two things:
First, it further guts the public school system, and second it opens to door to the voucher idea. Even if the vouchers are made temporary, the idea is now in the public light, and not only the relatively benign Catholic schools benefit. What's to stop the next step from being the Baptist schools, the Assemblies of God Schools, etc.

A note from Sunfell

I think that I understand my watchful moderator's reasoning for deleting this post, but I also understand Dragon Dancer's reason for posting it. School vouchers are another Dominionist-driven stealth tactic for doing exactly what he is pointing out has happened to the NOLA public schools- making them total failures because of the lack of tax base and the strength of the private schools.

While the majority of the private schools in NOLA are Catholic, and teach a fairly liberal and balanced curriculum (compared to most religiously run schools), his concern was the gates being opened to the extremely conservative and anti-science faiths, who, with their own schools, would not only undermine the remaining public schools, but also teach kids things that will undermine the future of our country.

Happily, some secondary educational facilities in CA have caught on to the poverty of the teachings of some of these Dominionist run schools and home schools, and do not recognize their credentials, but the bottom line is that public schools- strong, healthy public schools have been the backbone of the success of this country. Vouchers would leach that away if faulty curricula were taught, and we would find ourselves unable to compete or even be competent in the global sphere within a generation. Private and religious schools have a place in this country, but not paid for by taxpayers money and funded at the expense of public schools.

Not all religious schools teach dogma and eschew hard science. But enough of them do to make the voucher thrust something to be very alarmed about. Dragon Dancer is alarmed, as he has a right to be. The current administration is using Katrina to shove through a lot of really scary Dominionist-oriented stuff, faith-based administration, and religious school vouchers among them.

So, I've restored this post, because it addresses a real concern. It may be in a roundabout way, but it is something we must pay attention to.