More evidence Indiana vouchers are about teaching religion

Parents are using Indiana school vouchers and tax-credit scholarships to provide their children with religious education at taxpayer expense. That’s the finding that jumps out from a recent survey of private school parents by three pro-voucher Indiana organizations.

The survey found that more than half of parents who used vouchers to transfer their kids to private schools did so in part because they didn’t like the fact that public schools don’t teach religion. And more than two-thirds chose their current school for its religious instruction or environment.

That’s not the only motive parents listed. Survey participants were invited to check multiple reasons, and many did. The most common: Three in five disliked the “academic quality” of their public school; nearly 80 percent chose their current school for “academics.”

The Friedman Foundation, which conducted the survey with School Choice Indiana and the Indiana Non-Public Education Association, seized on that result. “Survey: Voucher parents chose private schools for better academics,” says the headline on its press release about the results.

But academic quality means different things to different people. (I guarantee it has very different meaning for me than for some of my close friends). Voucher parents were nearly as likely to list lack of “morals/character/values” instruction, absence of religion, large class sizes and not enough individual attention as what they didn’t like about public schools. It’s likely that “academic quality” serves partially as a proxy those other factors.

An aside: We don’t know a lot about the academic performance of schools that voucher students are leaving or entering. But we do know the school with the most voucher students got an F from the state.

The Friedman Foundation notes three limitations to its survey: Respondents self-selected to participate; parents who left the voucher program weren’t included; and no demographic questions were asked. Another reason for skepticism: Parents got the survey from their school principals. They were told their answers would be anonymous and would be tabulated by a third party, but such an approach could influence their responses.

Former Gov. Mitch Daniels and former state Superintendent Tony Bennett sold the Indiana voucher program as a way to help poor children escape failing neighborhood schools. But as David Dresslar of Indianapolis’ Center of Excellence in Leadership of Learning has noted – crediting the Indiana State Teachers Association – it’s becoming an entitlement program that exists to support religious education.

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5 thoughts on “More evidence Indiana vouchers are about teaching religion

  1. I think the government using any function to support religious organizations, educational systems, or events should be illegal. There is supposed to be a separation between Religion and Government. Taxpayers should not be footing the bill for religious institutions.

    The fact that this voucher program is supporting students to go to religious schools is pure controversy. The fact that tax payers are so stupid as to support this bill is a clear sign there is something wrong with this country as a whole. Religion is a personal experience the fact they have schools should be illegal.

    I have been a long time opponent to religion in schools, the work place, and government. Not because I am against religion.. no, it is because there is a time and place for religion and that is on your personal time or in the church. Not in a place of employment or education.

  2. In effect we are being forced to tithe in support of particular religious institutions. About 30 voucher schools are either teaching creationism or presenting it as an optional “theory.”

  3. Pingback: Scores drop when students move to private, magnet schools | School Matters

  4. Pingback: Voucher programs go beyond what court approved | School Matters

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