Should US Taxpayer Dollars Fund Islamic Schools ?

After months of inaction (unless you count the repeal of Obamacare and defunding of public broadcasting … which should not be counted since only the House has taken action), this week, the House of Representatives may finally vote on legislation that could create jobs and invest in education (although John Kline’s (R-MN-02) Education Committee held no hearings). The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that implementing the bill would cost $300 million over the 2012-2016 period … in short, the legislation increases federal spending without an equivalent offset … it adds to the deficit.

So, it’s a jobs bill … it’s an education bill that avoided the powerful Chairman of the Education Committee … it spends money … therefore, it must be a bill championed by Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats — Correct ?

Well ….

HR 471, the SOAR Act (SCHOLARSHIPS FOR OPPORTUNITY AND RESULTS ACT is authored by John Boehner (R-OH-08) with a number of co-sponsors including Mr. Kline.

Essentially, what the legislation provides is funding for students attending elementary school a scholarship up to $8,000 per year and students attending high school a scholarship in the amount of up to $12,000 per year.

This is revival of a program that was created by the DC School Choice Incentive Act of 2003 (Incentive Act) and expired in FY2009 (except for students that were enrolled in the program could continue).

Who benefits by this type of program ?
Private schools that are likely to get funding under the Boehner plan are operated by the Catholic Church. For example, in the first year of the original program, 14-member Center City Consortium of Catholic schools enrollment increased by 400 students due to this program. Additionally, Baptist, Adventist and Islamic schools are also expected to participate. Previously, the Rock Creek International School found a business leader with roots in the Middle East who subsidized scholarship students’ participation on a trip to Qatar and Jordan.
Interestingly, while Minnesota public schools are reducing curriculum, at one K-8 private school, half of all classes are taught in English and half are taught in French, Spanish or Arabic.
Additionally, Religious schools funded by the D.C. voucher experiment were free to discriminate in admission on the basis of academic ability, disability, economic status and a wide variety of other factors. Moreover, voucher program participants attending religious schools are not afforded other important civil rights protections that public school students get.

Diversion of federal funds to these schools, effectively creates taxpayer-subsidized religious schools. What Constitutional basis is there for this expenditure of taxpayer monies ?

Was the previous program successful ?

The third-year report, Evaluation of the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program: Impacts After One Year, contains the following key findings:

• No evidence of a statistically significant difference in test scores between students who were offered an OSP scholarship and students who were not offered a scholarship.

In addition, four studies of the program by the U.S. Department of Education have concluded that it does not improve academic achievement. The final report confirmed that the use of a voucher had no statistically significant impact on overall student achievement in math or reading.

When compared to other large urban school districts, the District of Columbia’s results are above average. In fact, DC Public Schools fourth and eighth grade students were the only ones in such districts to show significant improvement in the 2009 National Assessment of Education Progress.

Now, a few questions :
#1. The Republican Study Committee has proposed eliminating duplicative education programs, specifically, mentioning “pet projects created by Members of Congress or past Administrations, and all are highly restrictive, serving only a limited group of students”. Isn’t this that type of program ?
NOTE : Mr. Boehner is a graduate of the all-male, private Archbishop Henry K. Moeller High School.

#2. During the 2010 campaign, a central question was whether the Federal Government should fund the Department of Education. A number of candidates – including Sandy Adams (R-FL-24), Todd Akin (R-MO-02), Steve Austria (R-OH-07), Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD-06), John Duncan (R-TN-02), Bob Gibbs (R-OH-18), Don Manzullo (R-IL-16), Mike Pompeo (R-KS-04), Bill Posey (R-FL-15), Reid Ribble (R-WI-08), Martha Roby (R-AL-02), David Schweikert (R-AZ-05) Steve Southerland (R-FL-02), Scott Tipton (R-CO-03), Steve Womack (R-AR-3), etc. – all indicated that they wanted to reduce the role of the Federal Government in Education.
How do they balance their opposition to funding education with this unfunded investment of taxpayer monies ?

#3. Considering the runaway Federal spending, is now the time to re-enact this program whose track record is unproven ?
In fact, the funding per pupil amount is higher in the proposed legislation than it was in the previous authorization … so much for reducing spending to prior-Obama levels.

Mr. Kline likes to attack “Washington’s reckless spending”, so please tell the taxpayers why we should not Strongly Oppose this legislation ?
The TaxEnoughAlready movement would like an answer.

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