The GOP-dominated West Virginia legislature is rushing through a massive education overhaul bill that would, if passed, allow taxpayer money to fund Christian education.
The 144-page bill passed through the Senate Education Committee on Friday, just a day after it was revealed (with little time for public input), and will move toward a full vote very soon.
The bill includes a section (on page 88) creating “education savings accounts.” These are essentially vouchers that would allow parents to use public funding (based on “average net state aid allotted per pupil”) for “tuition and/or fees at a private school,” with no exception for religious institutions. The money could also be used for textbooks or other materials if the education provider requires it — “without limitation.” So public funding could be used to purchase Creationist textbooks that lie to students about basic concepts of science and history.
There’s one possible limitation here: The bill includes a provision that says any school receiving these funds can’t discriminate against students “on any basis for which the public schools of the state may not discriminate.” In theory, that means schools that reject openly trans students like the one Karen Pence works at might not be able to receive any funding. But schools could work around that by requiring families to sign a contract pledging to adhere to “Christian values”… or whatever euphemism they want to use that suggests anti-LGBTQ beliefs.
The bill would also legalize charter schools, which are run with public funding but which receive relatively little oversight.
These moves would ultimately deprive public schools of desperately needed funding in order to benefit private religious schools that don’t actually educate students with useful, fact-based information.
In short, West Virginia, which routinely ranks near the bottom on lists of the best states for education, is about to make everything even worse. They’re screwing over the kids in the state in order to appease religious leaders who want to indoctrinate them without dipping into church funds.
There are aspects of the bill that are good for teachers and students alike. But to mix in these elements that would undercut all those benefits does a disservice to the public. No wonder Republicans like it so much.
Democrats have already pushed back against it… but they’re in the minority.
(Image via Shutterstock. Thanks to Wanda for the link)