Being someone who supports the usage of school vouchers as it gives kids who need a good education a better chance to get one, but more importantly, gives parents more say in their children's education, I find the ADL's argument on the matter of school vouchers absurd and flawed.
For starters, they imply that among the private schools in America, there are those dedicated to religious indoctrination. What do they mean by that? In the second paragraph, they state the voucher programs subvert the separation of church of state and could undermine the public school system, which leads me to ask, How?
The next paragraph then claims this:
they (voucher programs) would force citizens — Christians, Jews, Muslims and atheists — to pay for the religious indoctrination of school children at schools with narrow parochial agendas. In many areas, 80 percent of vouchers would be used in schools whose central mission is religious training. In most such schools, religion permeates the classroom, the lunchroom, even the football practice field. Channeling public money to these institutions flies in the face of the constitutional mandate of separation of church and state.
I was under the impression that voucher programs pay the money to the parents, not the schools. It's up to the parents to decide which school gets the voucher funds, whether it be a religious or non-religious school. And how does this fly in the face of separation of church and state when the state doesn't dictate what the church, directly or indirectly, does with the money? The money simply goes to pay for the education costs for the students. And as far as the idea of religion permeating the classroom, the lunchroom and the football practice field, what if the parents want that for their kids? What if they want a religious environment for their kids when it comes to their schooling?
The article goes on to mention about the school voucher program in Cleveland and what some of its requirements are. I have no objections to them, and neither does the ADL, it seems, but as the article continues, I find more beef. The ADL thinks the voucher programs would be the same as saying "that we are giving up on the public education system". It's more like we're saying we're giving up on the bad schools, the ones who send kids out unprepared for the real world, who don't seem to know much other than 2+2=4.
Then there's this line:
Under a system of vouchers, it may be difficult to prevent schools run by extremist groups like the Nation of Islam or the Ku Klux Klan from receiving public funds to subsidize their racist and anti-Semitic agendas.
Aside from having equated private schools with bona fide hate groups like the KKK and the Nation Of Islam, the idea that preventing schools run by these groups from getting public money is difficult is something I find silly as well as flimsy. A simple inclusion in a piece of legislation supporting the implementation of school vouchers could leave out those schools run by the Nation Of Islam and the KKK. Unenforceable? I don't believe so.
The next paragraph claims that under the programs, parents of poor children won't get enough money to send their kids to private schools because the tuition is too high. Maybe so, but it's better than nothing, wouldn't you think? In any case, there's also homeschooling, in case parents can't afford private schools even with school vouchers. Won't work in some places, maybe so, but what does the ADL offer?
The next paragraph also shows more of the absurdity of their argument:
In many cases, voucher programs will offer students the choice between attending their current public school or attending a school run by the local church. Not all students benefit from a religious school atmosphere — even when the religion being taught is their own. For these students, voucher programs offer only one option: to remain in a public school that is likely to deteriorate even further.
So because there are students who might not benefit from a religious environment in school, that is reason enough to exclude students who might benefit from that same environment? I find that intolerable. The next paragraph then claims that voucher programs would take money away from public schools, who will be left with what they call the poorest of the poor students. What about the public schools which are doing a bad job educating the kids? Is more money going to solve the problem? I don't buy it.
The ADL also brings in conclusions from the American Federation of Teachers, saying the voucher programs might not be that effective. Since the American Federation of Teachers is a teachers' union well known for not supporting school vouchers, why should I take stock in their conclusions? In the end, the ADL claims school vouchers undermine public education and separation of church and state. In the end, I find their arguments flawed, absurd, silly and at times, wrong.
There is no universal solution to the problems with the education system, but school vouchers are a viable option which should remain on the table. This whole argument boils down to the question, Who should decide what kind of education the kids should have, the parents or the state? School vouchers offer parents the chance of getting that ideal education for their children. It doesn't violate the separation of church and state by any means, and it can serve as a motivation for public schools to get their act together. The Anti-Defamation League doesn't understand this, unfortunately; quite frankly, they're out of their league.