Experiments are always happening in public education. During my brief years in the classroom, I remember fads like team-teaching, schools-within-schools, open classrooms, magnet schools, alternative schools and, finally, charter schools. What these variations held in common was they were part of the public education system, paid for by tax payers and governed by an elected board of education. The newest craze is voucher schools, a camel that has crept it’s nose under the education tent while seeming to be “charter school-like.” They, too, are funded by taxpayer dollars and are championed by its supporters as another “choice” for parents. But, voucher schools do not answer to the public. They are a parallel system, free from public oversight. Joseph Overton, known for the Overton Window (Blog 2/23/17) — a concept which enables fringe ideas to become mainstream — is a designer of this “camel” which is no harmless animal. Rather, voucher schools are Trojan horses, disguised to look innocent as they siphon off public money to pay for religious education.
Take Michigan as an example. This is the home state of Betsy DeVos, our newly appointed Secretary of Education. For years, she has touted the virtue of voucher schools, calling them an opportunity to “advance God’s kingdom. ” (Ibid, pg. 32) Thanks, in part, to her money and her efforts, 80 percent of Michigan’s alternative schools are run by non-profits. (“Heavens to Betsy,” by Kristina Rizga, Mother Jones, March/April 2017 pg. 35.) Public education, meanwhile, has been decimated as money is siphoned from them to pay for these experiments which have yet to show measurable improvements in the quality of education. (Ibid pg. 35.) As one reporter noted, Michigan has “…lots of choice, with no good choice.” (Ibid pg. 35)
DeVos is a member of the Christian Reformed Church, a highly conservative branch of the Dutch Calvinist denomination. No leap of faith is necessary to understand where her plans for public education are headed. A heavenly vision imbues her with an intolerance for unions, a belief teachers should be stripped of their collective bargaining rights and also accounts for her desire to push right-to- work laws in every state. When Detroit teachers staged a “sick-in” to protest rodent infestations in their buildings, DeVos mounted her own protest with a letter to the Detroit News. In it she criticized the teachers’ actions on behalf of their students. (Ibid pg. 34.)
DeVoss is a staunch supporter of Focus on the Family, an evangelical organization that in 2002, during a radio broadcast, asked parents to pull their children out of public schools, charging the curriculum was “godless and immoral,” They urged Christian teachers to resign, as well. The group’s firmly held belief is that “separating Christianity from government is virtually impossible and would result in damage to the nation and its people.” (Ibid pg. 34.)
Make no mistake, the voucher system isn’t about greater choice. It’s a stealth attack designed by the religious right to infiltrate and destroy public education. Already voucher schools exist in fourteen states. If “pope” DeVos has her way, there will be more. Education is soon to be engulfed in a holy war.