Virginia yet hasn’t dipped its toes into direct public funding of private religious schools, although the General Assembly this year approved a back-door version of that. It passed a law allowing tax credits to individuals and businesses who contribute to private-school scholarship funds.
That means people and companies can pay at least some of their taxes to religious schools if they choose to, rather than to the state.
But the commonwealth may one reach the conservative holy grail of taxpayer-paid-for vouchers for private schools. A Louisiana program now underway does just that, and it’s creating a bit of a kerfuffle in the Pelican state.
This year, 121 private schools applied for vouchers worth up to $8,500 per student. The state approved all but two schools and 99 percent of the approved schools are religious ones. About 5,600 students will be attending them.
The problem seems with state Schools Superintendent John White. He hasn’t released to the public state documents that detail how the 119 approved schools were vetted. The Associated Press asked for those documents more than 10 weeks ago. One of White’s underlings said the request was refused to avoid “ridicule or criticism.” Now White says he will release them, in September after schools have opened.
But the ridicule and critcism already has begun. And some of those schools sound like doozies. From columnist James Gill, at The Times-Picayune:
This coming year the state has allocated about 80 slots to a small New Orleans school run by Leonard Lucas, a former one-term state legislator who now styles himself “prophet” and “apostle.” When Lucas ran for City Council a few years back, he issued press releases bespeaking an indifference to grammar that ill becomes an educator. The parents who send kids to school such as his may wish they had left them where they were.
Some of the schools teach creationism. Some use textbooks from publisher A Beka, which put out a 10th grade biology text titled “Biology: God’s Living Creation.” Other books teach evolution, to the extent that they “they present it as incorrect, contrary to Christianity and atheistic,” a science advocate told the Louisiana Advertiser.
Coming to Virginia soon? Let’s hope not.