Louisiana plans to use vouchers to teach creationism

July 27, 2012

News from the National Center for Science Education — I get e-mail, and it’s probably best to pass it along quickly, unedited, except for links in the text of the article, and the photo of Zack Kopplin, which I added:

VOUCHERS FOR CREATIONISM IN LOUISIANA?

Louisiana is about to spend almost twelve million dollars to fund the teaching of creationism, charges Zack Kopplin, famous for organizing the effort to repeal the so-called Louisiana Science Education Act. In Kopplin’s sights now is a controversial new voucher program in the state that uses public school funds to pay for tuition and certain fees at private schools for students who attend low-performing public schools and whose family income is below 250% of the federal poverty level. When the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education considered a set of accountability guidelines for such private schools at its July 24, 2012, meeting, Kopplin testified that of the roughly 6600 spaces available for students under the program, 1350 will be filled, as the Lafayette Independent Weekly(July 26, 2012) described it, “at private Christian schools that teach creationism and peg evolution as ‘false science.’”

Zack Kopplin, brave teen fighting for good science education in Louisiana

Zack Kopplin, brave teen fighting for good science education in Louisiana

According to the Alexandria Town Talk (July 25, 2012), “A number of the schools on the voucher list teach creationism, a doctrine that holds that God created all life out of nothing, and either don’t mention the theory of evolution or teach that it is false science. State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education [BESE] policy on teaching science requires that public schools teach what is in textbooks but they can supplement with BESE-approved material to promote ‘critical thinking’ on alternatives to evolution.” Superintendent of Education John C. White told the newspaper that BESE had approved the curriculum for all of the schools. “Not teaching evolution could show up in the required state testing for students receiving vouchers, he said, and there could be repercussions ‘if a school shows a fundamental disregard’ for conducting the test.”

Writing earlier in the New Orleans Times-Picayune (July 18, 2012) about Kopplin’s research on the private schools expected to receive new students through the voucher program, columnist James Gill commented, “It is impossible to prepare fully for such a massive reform as going voucher, and some undeserving private schools are bound to receive an OK from harried state officials. But a religious takeover on this scale cannot be accidental. Of the schools on Zack Kopplin’s list, one believes that scientists are ‘sinful men,’ and declares its view ‘on the age of the earth and other issues is that any theory that goes against God’s word is in error.’ Another avers that evolution is ‘extremely damaging to children individually and to society as a whole.’ A third tells students to write an essay explaining how ‘the complexity of a cell shows it must be purposefully designed.’ And so it goes.”

The creationist instructional material used by such schools include textbooks from Bob Jones University Press and A Beka Books — which were described by the University of California system in the ACSI v. Stearns case as “inappropriate for use as primary texts in college preparatory science courses due to their characterizations of religious doctrine as scientific evidence, scientific inaccuracies, failure to encourage critical thinking, and overall un-scientific approach” — and Accelerated Christian Education. A textbook from ACE that argued against evolution on the grounds that the Loch Ness monster not only exists but also is a living plesiosaur (incorrectly described as a dinosaur) understandably attracted the attention of The Scotsman (June 25, 2012) and was widely ridiculed nationally and internationally.

The voucher program is presently under legal challenge from the Louisiana Association of Educators and the Louisiana Federation of Teachers along with a number of local school boards. But the issue of the state’s funding the teaching of creationism is not part of the challenge. Rather, as the New Orleans Times-Picayune (July 10, 2012) explained, “Two key issues are at play in the voucher suit: whether providing private schools with money from the Minimum Foundation Program violates the [Louisiana state] constitution by redirecting those funds from public schools, and whether a last-minute vote setting the new MFP formula in place received enough support in the state House to carry the force of law.” The state will be allowed to implement the voucher program while the challenge works its way through the court system, the newspaper reported.

For the article in the Lafayette Independent Weekly, visit:
http://www.theind.com/news/11055-kopplin-state-paying-116m-to-schools-teaching-creationism

For the article in the Alexandria Town Talk, visit:
http://www.thetowntalk.com/article/20120725/NEWS01/120725003/Louisiana-vouchers-going-mainly-church-affiliated-schools

For James Gill’s column in the New Orleans Times-Picayune, visit:
http://www.nola.com/opinions/index.ssf/2012/07/vouchers_are_a_creationists_be.html

For NCSE’s collection of material from ACSI v. Stearns, visit:
http://ncse.com/creationism/legal/acsi-v-stearns

For the article in The Scotsman, visit:
http://www.scotsman.com/news/odd/loch-ness-monster-cited-by-us-schools-as-evidence-that-evolution-is-myth-1-2373903

For the article on the challenge to the voucher program in the New
Orleans Times-Picayune, visit:
http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2012/07/judge_denies_injunction_in_vou.html

And for NCSE’s previous coverage of events in Louisiana, visit:
http://ncse.com/news/louisiana

With all the troubles Louisiana has, with rebuilding from storms, a dysfunctional food distribution system, a dysfunctional health care distribution system, clean up from the Gulf oil spill of 2010, and erosion problems especially in the Gulf bordering parishes, why is Louisiana wasting time and brain power on creationism?


CNN special on “fixing” education in the U.S.

November 6, 2011

I get press releases in e-mail:

FIXING EDUCATION is Focus of New “Restoring the American Dream” FAREED ZAKARIA GPS Primetime Special

Restoring the American Dream – FIXING EDUCATION Debuts Sunday at 8:00pm ET and PT

TIME Magazine Companion Story “When Will We Learn?” Hits Newsstands Friday

American primary and secondary education were once envied by much of the world, but over the last few decades U.S. students have fallen behind – while students in other countries have benefitted from improvements to their educational systems.  CNN and TIME magazine’s Fareed Zakaria interviews innovative and creative leaders working on solutions to fix what ails American education in his November primetime special, Restoring the American Dream – FIXING EDUCATION, on Sunday, Nov. 6 at 8:00pm & 11:00pm ET & PT, and for a companion TIME magazine cover article, “When Will We Learn?” that hits newsstands Friday.

Time Magazine cover for November 4, 2011

Time Magazine cover for November 4, 2011, featuring Fareed Zakaria's story on education reform

PISA, the Program for International Student Assessment, ranks 15-year-olds for basic skills achievement in 65 industrialized nations.  In the latest PISA rankings, the U.S. ranks 15th in reading, 23rd in math, and 31st in science.  Zakaria guides viewers through tours of what is working in education in countries with high rankings – to South Korea where students have more classroom time; and Finland , where professionalization of the teacher workforce has improved educators – in order to mine ideas for what could put U.S. education back on the right track.

Featured in the special are:

  • ·Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates, whose foundation has donated $5 billion dollars to schools, libraries, and scholarships tells Zakaria that the single most important determinant in the quality of a student’s education is the teacher.  The Gates Foundation is the leading source of private money for education in the U.S. .
  • ·Salman Khan,< founder of the Khan Academy , an educational organization that provides free, self-paced tutorials and student assessments online.  Khan’s famous podcasts have delivered more than 83 million free lessons in math, science and other topics, and he tells Zakaria that customizing education can improve learning through leveraging how students learn differently.  He thinks it would not be that difficult to teach all American students this way.
    • NYU Professor, former Assistant U.S. Secretary of Education, and author (The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education, 2010) Diane Ravitch has spent a lifetime in education policy analysis and has seen education reforms come and go – and harm students.  Ravitch supports a rigorous national curriculum and tells Zakaria that standardized testing, charter schools, and modeling public education after business models have politicized American education and degraded schools for a generation.
    • ·Michelle Rhee, former chancellor of D.C. Public Schools, in Washington, now leads StudentsFirst, a nonprofit aimed at education reform through, among other measures, ending teacher tenure and supporting charter school alternatives to traditional public schools.

A FAREED ZAKARIA GPS Special:Restoring the American Dream – FIXING EDUCATION – debuts Sunday, Nov. 6 at 8:00p.m. and 11:00p.m. ET/PT on CNN/U.S.  It will replay on Saturday, Nov. 12 at 8:00p.m. and 11:00p.m. ET/PT on CNN/U.S.  Preview available here: Fareed Zakaria and Brooke Baldwin discuss what makes a great teacher.

Fareed Zakaria’s TIME magazine cover story, When Will We Learn? hits newsstands Friday, Nov. 4.

So the Time story is already out (home delivery has already occurred in many cases).

If you’re interested in this special, you may want to record it yourself — CNN tells me no DVD will be available.

I have AT&T cable, so we don’t get CNN, which is reserved for the high-cost, not-teachers-salary package.  Somebody tell me how it goes.

Zakaria thinks solidly and well on a number of topics, especially where comparison with foreign nations is made.  Ravitch was struck with an epiphany on testing and the No Child Left Behind Act over a year ago, as described in the press release.  She came to see that testing sucks rigor out of classrooms, instead of instilling rigor as we discussed 30 years ago in the education reform movement.

What in the world can Michelle Rhee add to this discussion?  From the press release it looks a lot like the “balance” fallacy makes the show suffer:  Journalists think they need a contrasting view, so when Euclid tells a writer that 2+2=4, the journalist seeks out others who have different opinions, and prints those opinions no matter how stupid, insipid, or dangerous they may be.

Let us keep hope alive.

See also at Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub:


Surprise attack on public schools today, in Texas Lege?

May 18, 2011

From the Texas Freedom Network (late last night — so where it says, “tomorrow,” think “today!”):

Voucher Lobby Launches Big Surprise Attack on Texas Public Schools

TELL YOUR LEGISLATOR NOW TO OPPOSE VOUCHER SCHEME THAT WOULD DRAIN BILLIONS OF DOLLARS FROM OUR NEIGHBORHOOD PUBLIC SCHOOLS

We have just learned that advocates of private school voucher schemes are planning to offer legislation as soon as tomorrow (Wednesday, May 18) that would drain billions of dollars from our neighborhood public schools to subsidize tuition at private and religious schools across Texas. A proposed amendment to important fiscal legislation in the Texas House of Representatives would allow the state to give so-called “Taxpayer Savings” grants – vouchers – to families that send their children to private or religious schools. The money would come directly from tax dollars originally intended for public education – even if recipients of these vouchers had never set foot in a public school!

This radical new voucher proposal is backed by a virtual “who’s who” of anti-public education groups, including the Texas Home School Coalition and Tea Party activists. They are dishonestly claiming that their voucher scheme will save the state money – but the loss in funding would be catastrophic for neighborhood public schools.

Legislators in 2007 and 2009 voted overwhelmingly to bar spending any taxpayer dollars on vouchers for private and religious schools. But now as lawmakers consider billions of dollars in cuts to the budget for public education, voucher advocates want to siphon off billions more in funding from our neighborhood schools.

TAKE ACTION

The Texas House of Representatives could vote on this reckless voucher amendment tomorrow (Wednesday, May 18). It’s critical that you CALL YOUR LEGISLATOR TODAY and TOMORROW MORNING and insist that he or she oppose this irresponsible effort to defund neighborhood public schools. Tell your legislator:

  • So-called “Taxpayer Savings” grants are nothing more than a radical and irresponsible private school voucher scheme. They could drain billions of dollars from neighborhood public schools on top of the billions in painful cuts to public education already in the current House and Senate budget bills.
  • These vouchers/grants would not cover the full cost of private school tuition and would therefore go mostly to tuition subsidies for high-income families – including families with children who were never in public schools to begin with.
  • This voucher scheme would send public tax dollars to private and religious schools that are unaccountable to taxpayers. In fact, the proposed amendment includes no standards or regulations at all for recipients of these tax-funded vouchers – it’s simply a tax-dollar giveaway.

Click here to find out who represents you in the Texas House of Representatives and the contact information for his or her office.


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