How many of you who stop by here teach in private schools? It doesn’t seem as though there are many of us private school teachers out there in the blogosphere. I read Waterfall’s blog; she teaches at a Christian school in North Carolina. If you know of others, I would appreciate links. I feel like an island!
When issues like school vouchers come up, I admit that in my new position as a private, indeed a parochial school teacher, I feel as though I should feel torn. I don’t. I’m against them. Obviously, I have no problem with parents who choose to send their children to private schools and are willing to pay the tuition. I do have problems with parents expecting the taxpayers to send their children to private schools in the form of vouchers. I know of many students at my school that might not be there if not for scholarships, but those funds are freely donated for the purpose of giving students a Jewish education.
The New York Times reported Friday that Florida’s Supreme Court “struck down a voucher program … for students attending failing schools, saying the State Constitution bars Florida from using taxpayer money to finance a private alternative to the public system.” I would venture to guess that many other state constitutions have similar clauses. However, I was surprised to find that the U.S. Constitution did not:
The United States Supreme Court has ruled that the federal Constitution does not prohibit vouchers, but it also held last year that states were not obliged to finance religious education as well as secular education. Those actions left it to state courts to decide whether voucher programs were legal, and focused national attention on the battle over vouchers in Florida, which teachers’ unions first challenged in 1999.
Florida’s Consititution says, “Adequate provision shall be made by law for a uniform, efficient, safe, secure and high quality system of free public schools.” [Emphasis mine.] The court added, “This diversion not only reduces money available to the free schools, but also funds private schools that are not ‘uniform’ when compared with each other or the public system.”
And that’s the point, isn’t it? For instance, the curriuculm at my school requires Hebrew and courses in Tanakh (Bible) and Rabbinic Literature (as well as other Jewish studies), in addition to academic courses such as English, math, social studies, and science. I can think of no public schools that require Hebrew (or even offer it) or offer courses in Judaic studies. Our school is simply different from public schools, and students from public schools who enroll often find it is a bit of adjustment. We might not offer classes those students were taking in their public high school, such as French.
Governor Bush seems to be considering amending Florida’s Constitution. He referred to the ruling as “a blow to educational reform.” I just can’t agree with that assessment. It is clear to me that we need to do something to reform public education, but giving students money to go to private schools is not the answer.