The 'Christian' Dogma Pushed by Religious Schools That Are Supported by Your Tax Dollars
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As of February 2011, 83.8 percent of the students in the Florida tax credit program were attending religious schools, approximately the same rate as Milwaukee’s voucher program. However, unlike Milwaukee, hundreds of the Florida schools fall into the category of right-wing evangelical or fundamentalist, with many using A Beka, Bob Jones, or ACE curriculum.
The Step Up For Students reports describe the typical student in the tax credit program as a minority from a one-parent home. Currently 35.6 percent are African American and 27.5 percent are Hispanic. The organization's glossy reports tout the improved opportunities of the students provided with tuition grants to private schools.
The Florida tax credit program is voluntarily supported by corporations including AT &T, Burger King, CVS, Lowe’s, Marriott, Sysco Food Services, and others, described in the Step Up For Students annual reports as “receiving a high rate of return on their investments.” Do these corporation know what they are supporting? The Step Up For Students reports and other pro-privatization propaganda openly report the participating private school’s use of the curricula series quoted in this article, without revealing what that means.
The Step Up For Students reports also fail to include the fact that some American universities refuse to accept high school credit for courses taught from several textbooks quoted in this article. University of California specifically cited several A Beka and Bob Jones textbooks and, although challenged in court, won the case.
Some of the glowing testimonies in the Step Up for Students annual report include this 2008 description (PDF) of Bible Truth Ministries Academy. “Students are divided into multi-grade learning groups and taught with the Accelerated Christian Education curriculum, which is self-paced and has allowed some of the students to advance well beyond their grade level.”
The 2007 annual report (PDF) features Esprit De Corps Center for Learning in Jacksonville. Next to a photo of smiling African American children, smartly attired in uniforms and berets, the curriculum is touted. “Using an A Beka curriculum designed to challenge students to reach their full potential, the school offers outstanding academic programs that provide its students with the skills and knowledge to become active, productive members of society. [...] EDC has partnered with Step Up For Students since its inception.”
When the Palm Beach Post conducted its survey in 2003, the Potter’s House Christian Academy was one of the major recipients of voucher funding and reported using both the A Beka and Bob Jones curriculum series. The school is affiliated with the politically influential Jacksonville mega-church, the Potter’s House Christian Fellowship, led by Bishop Vaughan McLaughlin.
In February 2005, an estimated 2200 people attended a rally at the church in support of Step Up For Students, led by Governor Jeb Bush and the state’s attorney general at that time, Charlie Crist. This June, the Potter’s House will be a host of the Global Day of Prayer, led by an international Charismatic network, which includes Apostle Ed Silvoso, Bishop McLaughin’s spiritual mentor. This network teaches that Christians must take control or “dominion” over government and society. (Silvoso is the brother-in-law of evangelist Luis Palau, whose ministry has received at least $3.5 million from the Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation.)
This tax credit program money could have been used to improve Florida’s urban public schools, but that would not serve the purpose of indoctrinating the largely minority recipients of the tuition grants with the right-wing religious worldview found in these textbooks. As Frances Paterson states in her research, Americans absolutely have the right to send their children to schools that use these fundamentalist curricula. But she adds, “The public policy makers can and should ask whether the alternative system of Christian education for which they seek public approval and support is ideologically driven in ways that run contrary to the best interests of a diverse, democratic society.”