Thanks to Governor Pat McCrory and the current General Assembly, your tax dollars will soon be subsidizing discrimination across North Carolina and paying to teach children bizarre fundamentalist theories about dinosaurs and the age of the earth.
The budget passed this summer and signed by McCrory created a school voucher scheme, euphemistically called opportunity scholarships, that will allow almost completely unaccountable and unregulated private and religious academies to receive state funding diverted from traditional public schools.
For now the scholarship can only be used by students in low-income families who attended public schools last year, but don’t be fooled. Rep. Paul Stam, the primary sponsor of the proposal, clearly wants every student in private school to eventually receive a voucher from the taxpayers. He has said as much.
Recently the Myrtle Grove Christian School in Wilmington announced that it will begin denying admission to gay students or students of gay parents. Myrtle Grove is on the list of schools eligible to participate in the voucher program that is maintained by the Division of Non-Public Schools in the state Department of Administration.
That means that your tax dollars will fund a school next fall that openly discriminates against gay students and gay parents. And folks in the McCrory Administration don’t seem all that upset about it.
Chris Mears, the spokesperson for the Department of Administration, told a writer for the Wilmington Faith and Values website that the department doesn’t look at individual school policies for the opportunity scholarships.
Apparently if schools want to discriminate with our tax dollars, that’s ok with the folks in the McCrory Administration.
And Myrtle Grove is hardly alone. The majority of private schools on the approved list for receiving public money through vouchers are religious, many clearly with an evangelical fundamentalist outlook.
The Faith and Values story about Myrtle Grove cited a study of Georgia voucher schools done by the Southern Education Foundation that found that 115 of the schools have “severe anti-gay policies” or belonged to national groups that promote anti-gay positions.
We don’t know how many there are in North Carolina but it is a safe bet there are quite a few.
Lindsay Wagner with NC Policy Watch reported this fall that some of the schools on the approved list for vouchers use the A-Beka Book curriculum and books from Bob Jones University Press.
As Wagner reported, those books teach students that dinosaurs and humans co-existed on Earth, that slaves were generally treated well and that gay people have no more claims to special rights than child molesters or rapists.
Next fall the schools that use those textbooks will be teaching those ideas with public money and barring any gay students or kids in gay families from attending.
Another one of the schools on the approved list for taxpayer support is Paramount Christian Academy in Thomasville that has one teacher and seven students and phone numbers that don’t appear to be working.
Paramount Christian may be receiving public money next year and it is not clear what is being taught there.
Stam and the other supporters of the voucher scheme don’t care, and say we don’t need any real requirements for the schools to meet, that parents provide the ultimate accountability by choosing the school for their kids.
If they want their children to attend a school that openly discriminates against certain people or teaches blatantly wrong or even offensive theories, that’s fine.
And what’s more, Stam and apparently Governor McCrory want to force us to pay for it. And starting this fall we will, to North Carolina’s great shame.