Reading ‘Rriting and Religion: Tennessee Legislators Move To Kill Voucher Bill To Avoid Funds Going To Muslim School

597px-Tennessee-StateSeal.svgSchoolClassroomMany of us have opposed voucher systems as thinly veiled efforts to publicly fund religious schools in addition to a system that undermines our public school system. Republican lawmakers in Tennessee seem intent on confirming the religious motivations behind the system this week in opposing vouchers because it has occurred to them that Muslim schools might be able to receive funding with Christian schools. They are threatening to block Republican Gov. Bill Haslam’s school voucher bill unless they can find a way to deny it to Muslim schools — a suggestion that brings sectarian prejudices to the forefront of the debate.

TracyState Sen. Jim Tracy (R) raised his “considerable concern” that tax dollars could go to schools that teach principles from the Quran . . . . as opposed to those schools that teach the principles from the Bible. Tracy is on the Senate Education Committee and, apparently more importantly, is a member of the Church of Christ. He wants to amend the law to exclude Muslim schools — something that is not just an act of raw prejudice but completely unconstitutional.

Kelsey triggered the debate by trying to expand the voucher program from the lowest 5 percent of schools to every school in the state. However, that would mean that at least one identified Muslim school could qualify — sending the legislators into a sectarian panic.

State Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R) agreed that the fear of funding Muslim educational institutions was “just another reason for not amending the governor’s bill,” Norris pointed out.

s13The Tennessee legislator is in a frenzy over Islam. State Sen. Bill Ketron (R) seems to be fashioning himself as a type of Joe McCarthy of religion. He sponsored a bill to ban Sharia law in Tennessee and recently went public to demand answers from Senate Clerk Russell Humphrey on whether a floor-level sink installed outside the House chamber men’s restroom was intended to accommodate Muslims’ ritual of washing their feet before prayer.

It turned out to be a mop sink and Ketron and other legislators breathed a collective sectarian sigh of relief.

The death of the voucher bill puts the sectarian motives of some legislators in sharp relief. These legislators often deny that they have any interest in funding church institutions and simply want to improve educational opportunities for students (while refusing of course to actually fully fund public schools or commit resources to make them competitive with other states). The poor performance of public schools allows legislators to siphon off funds to religious institutions in the name of education. It is a perverse incentive. By not fixing their schools, religious legislators can get more money to Christian and Jewish schools. However, Tennessee is reminding everyone that one of the three Rs remains Religion and it has to be the right religion to receive public subsidy.

Source: Raw Story

47 thoughts on “Reading ‘Rriting and Religion: Tennessee Legislators Move To Kill Voucher Bill To Avoid Funds Going To Muslim School”

  1. As a teacher I am happy to read that Elaine M. is exposing one of the major differences between charter and public schools: charter schools and private schools in general can get away with picking and choosing the kind of students (and their families) which will make them look better. We in public schools have to accept all students and of course the families of those students. We get the most unruly children, the less educated and poorer families and students with disabilities as well as students with low or no English language skills. It is an unfair fight, one promoted by such do-gooders like Bill&Melinda Gates and embraced by many Christian Conservatives. As it turns out there is not much evidence as of yet that students in charter schools actually do better academically.

  2. Mike A.,

    I’ve also read that charter schools usually don’t take their share of special needs students. Here’s an excerpt from and a link to an article that I found when I was doing research for one of my education posts:

    Special Report: Class Struggle – How charter schools get students they want
    By Stephanie Simon
    Fri Feb 15, 2013

    (Reuters) – Getting in can be grueling.

    Students may be asked to submit a 15-page typed research paper, an original short story, or a handwritten essay on the historical figure they would most like to meet. There are interviews. Exams. And pages of questions for parents to answer, including: How do you intend to help this school if we admit your son or daughter?

    These aren’t college applications. They’re applications for seats at charter schools.

    Charters are public schools, funded by taxpayers and widely promoted as open to all. But Reuters has found that across the United States, charters aggressively screen student applicants, assessing their academic records, parental support, disciplinary history, motivation, special needs and even their citizenship, sometimes in violation of state and federal law.

    “I didn’t get the sense that was what charter schools were all about – we’ll pick the students who are the most motivated? Who are going to make our test scores look good?” said Michelle Newman, whose 8-year-old son lost his seat in an Ohio charter school last fall after he did poorly on an admissions test. “It left a bad taste in my mouth.”

  3. Just wait till they find out that public schools don’t teach the principles of the Bible either. They might come up with some complex scheme that takes money from an institution that works to the betterment of everyone in the state and funnels it into the pockets of religious organizations.


  4. Bron,

    The real issue isn’t the use of force by government in compelling compliance with laws. That is a given by the very nature of government – laws without enforcement are suggestions. The real issue is “to what ends”. A government that works for the many for the benefit of the many based on the consent and will of the many is democracy at its best – which we do not have – while a government that works for the few for the benefit of the few and at the expense of the needs of the many is an oligarchy of some sort and inherently undemocratic. Which sounds a lot like what we have in our American Corporatist Plutocracy today. “To what ends” needs to be answered “the maximum benefit for the maximum number with minimal rational restraints of absolute freedoms”. Any other answer is a recipe for eventual civil discord ranging from simple discontent to open rebellion and revolution.

  5. Elaine:
    I agree completely. My sister Carol has been teaching in public schools in and around Orlando for 35 years. Whenever I want to push her buttons, all I do is ask her how she feels about charter schools.

  6. frankly:

    Many people at each point of the political spectrum are about control using government force. Those things Lrobby mentioned should be left to the individual to decide for himself.

    If you work for a company that allows smoking in the office, quit and go work for a non-smoking company. Don’t like fats, don’t eat them and if a company doesn’t label the contents of pre-prepared food? Don’t buy it, I am pretty sure the company would not wait long to put the proper information on the box or can if no one bought their product.

    If you buy a car without seatbelts, then the insurance company should make you pay more.

    It is all about choice; apparently the left just likes the choices they make.

    Personally, I don’t care if you smoke in public, I don’t care if a hotdog package doesn’t have a label [any damn fool should know a hot dog isn’t health food], I know a big greasy hamburger with mayo and cheese isn’t healthy, I know too much sugar causes problems with insulin, I know smoking can cause cancer and it is generally a bad idea to ingest nicotine [a cousin of strychnine] in any form, I also know riding a motorcycle without a helmet can lead to death and brain damage [medical professionals call them donorcycles].

    I don’t need a politician making laws to protect me from Col. Sanders based on the hand wringing of some wet nurse who saw a chicken being slaughtered and now wants to outlaw killing chickens because they have “heightened” sensibilities and they think it is wrong for me to eat chicken. If you dont like killing chickens, then dont eat chicken, dont make me not eat chicken.

    God save us from busy bodies of all political stripes. Just let us be free to live our lives in peace and quit trying to control us at every turn in the road [I am not saying you do this].

  7. Mike A.,

    I’d add that we have seen a more aggressive push for charter schools and vouchers in recent years because some greedy people would like to get their hands on the hundreds of billions of dollars spent every year on public education in this country. There is a profit motive behind the efforts of many school “reformers.”

  8. Public schools must accept all students who reside in their districts. I’m against tax payers’ money helping to fund religious schools and private schools–which can be selective about which children they accept as students.

  9. “The push for “school choice” and voucher programs was a response to school desegregation and the financial needs of all of the private, and primarily fundamentalist, religious academies that began to sprout like kudzu in the ’70s and ’80s.” (Mike Appleton)

    Bingo! Funny how everybody likes to ignore that very salient fact pretending that the issue is education/children/money. The attitudes of bigotry that were necessary to the Slave Economy that drove this nation for decades are still deeply embedded within our psyche and touch every single institution within our society … as is the denial that creates all these insidious disguises.

  10. The push for “school choice” and voucher programs was a response to school desegregation and the financial needs of all of the private, and primarily fundamentalist, religious academies that began to sprout like kudzu in the ’70s and ’80s. The Tennessee debate pretty much proves that point. I am not surprised by the present controversy, but by the fact that it took so long for Tennessee’s best and brightest to figure out the implications of their plan.

  11. AY,

    In a way, it is still “us versus them” but the lines aren’t drawn by the traditional political polar ideologies but by simple ego and greed. To say it is “have versus have not” is not precisely correct either as not all of the haves are responsible for this neo-fascism. The “1%” as a political pejorative is in reality probably more like the “0.1%” but that doesn’t mean the rest of the 1% isn’t going to get any on them when the feces strikes the rapidly rotating oscillator.

    It’s the “I’m special and the center of the universe and I want what I want and screw everyone else vs. everyone else” model – the sociopathic venal egoists versus the requirements of continued civilization.

  12. Gene,

    I’m echoing you’re reply….. People don’t understand the effect of polarization of partisanship….. It’s an us or them mentality….. And to think that I bought RWR was the worst president….. In looking back…. He could get both sides to agree to some compromise…… Today….. Neither party is worth a ……

  13. I’ve noticed that the only concession conservatives will make to the idiocy perpetrated by conservative politicians on a nearly daily basis is to claim that both parties are guilty of the same sins which is entirely false, but it provides a convenient salve while recognizing what we already know: that conservatives are idiots.

    Nick S

    How convenient for conservatives to forgo personal responsibility for their local schools. There is only hypocricy in their seeking to milk the system of tax money in order to get public money to enroll kids in private religious schools and continuing to weaken the system they decry.

  14. I’d like to point out that the emergent form of fascism we are seeing crosses both party lines and redefines fascism in such as way as to almost completely erase the right/left distinction. Fascism tends to be right wing in practice because it is authoritarian, but its values have always been syncretic (i.e. they draw from the right and the left). The new fascism is Corporatism and it is Italian Fascism on steroids. It appeals to and drives the most venal of sociopaths from both ends of the spectrum and is championed by both neoconservatives and neoliberals (who are neither true conservatives nor true liberals, but simply fascists more in the form of Pinochets and Mussolinis than Hitlers).

    It’s madness and it will lead to the same end that all fascism does – death, misery, suffering and violence for everyone except the 1% . . . until the other 99% have finally had enough and eat the instigators in their own kitchens or hang them from lamp posts like ornaments.

    But to think of the “Neo-Fascism” as a politically polar threat is to miss both its true nature and the scope of the threat it represents.

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