March 29, 2011- Republicans in Congress and statehouses around the country are slashing education funding, eliminating teaching jobs, and abolishing collective bargaining agreements as a means of controlling spending and dealing with alleged budget deficits. In Wisconsin, Governor Scott Walker has demonized public school teachers as overpaid babysitters who are the sole cause of the state’s budget deficit and his tactics are being used in Ohio, Florida, Michigan, and other states with Republican governors and majorities in state legislatures.
Meanwhile, John Boehner continues his biblical assault on women’s rights instead of job creation like Republicans promised during the midterm elections. Boehner has spent the entire time as Speaker of the House promoting and legislating for Christianity and is finally addressing education funding with a bill (H.R. 471) that is scheduled for a vote on March 30.
On its face, the bill is education related, but it is nothing more than another bible-inspired gift that encourages religious privatization of Washington D.C.’s school system and is in direct conflict with the separation of church and state as directed in the Constitution. Boehner’s bill is a voucher system that is a Republican tactic to eventually privatize education in America as well as promote evangelical values that Republicans hope to instill into the American psyche. There are several problems with the bill besides the fact that it is unconstitutional to use Federal tax dollars for religious instruction.
Private religious schools are exempt from civil rights laws and they have free sovereignty to discriminate against employees in hiring on the basis of faith, lifestyle, or political affiliation. Although the vouchers are federally funded using U.S. taxpayer dollars, private religious schools are allowed to discriminate in enrollment on the basis of faith. More than 80% of students who receive federally funded vouchers attend private religious schools that have no option available for students to opt-out of religious instruction allowing the schools to proselytize students in the ways of Christian dogmata and social conservative philosophy.
This is all being done with American’s tax dollars, and to make matters worse, the religious schools enjoy tax-exempt status because they are faith-based, non-profit organizations. In other words, the private religious schools are double dipping at the taxpayers’ expense. The added insult is that religious schools are also exempt from non-discrimination in hiring laws on the basis of faith or sexual preference. In states like Virginia and South Carolina, there are movements to disallow gays from teaching in public schools or being in close proximity to students. Without the constraints of fair hiring practices and equal rights, Virginia and South Carolina would discriminate against potential teachers, but the Constitutional protections prevent the bigots from disallowing gays from teaching in public schools.