Wednesday, September 2, 2020

TX: Why Vouchers For Private Schools Are A Bad Idea

Texas is a happy playground for charter operators, but fans of school voucher program using public taxpayer dollars to fund private school tuition-- well, they're been mighty disappointed on a regular basis. Even as US Senator Ted Cruz (yes, he's really from Texas) has tried to help push the Betsy DeVos voucher plan, a state-level program has been shot down again and again.

Mind you, they don't give up, and they keep coming back with assortments of bad arguments, like "vouchers will help rescue poor and minority students." You know-- "school choice is the new civil rights," say folks like Donald "I Haven't Recognized The Old Civil Rights Yet" Trump.

And every once in a while, a story comes along to help remind us why public tax dollars for private school tuition is a lousy idea.

Welcome to The Covenant School in Dallas, Texas. It's a highly-rated private religious school, with fancy things like a 7-1 faculty-student ratio. It get high marks for all sorts of things--except diversity. The state has a 38% Black student population, and Dallas itself has some segregation issues (only 6% of the Dallas Independent School District student population is white). Covenant's student body is only 6% Black. And with a tuition rate of $19K, not just anybody is going to be the "right fit" for this school.

But it turns out that Black students aren't the only group of students under-represented at Covenant.

Meet Devin Bryant. This 17-year-old student appears to be quite the school asset-- straight A,  "popular, well-behaved student, talented artist and gifted athlete who has made significant contributions" to the school's program. We know that's true because the school's headmaster said so himself, in the letter explaining why Bryant was just expelled.

Because Devin Bryant is gay.

Bryant, who has been a Covenant student since kindergarten, came out last October in an Instagram post (kids these days) and was scheduled to have a meeting with school officials last spring, but then pandemic madness hit. But this fall, when the seniors were painting their parking spaces, Bryant painted his to include mention that he is gay, and two days later, he was expelled.

Mom, who has been sending students to Covenant for twenty years, called to plead her son's case. Here's a part of the conversation with the headmaster that she shared with Dallas Voice:

“Are you a Christian?” she asked him. “Jesus would not do what you are doing.”

 He told her, “I’m doing what Jesus would want me to do.”

Yes, she signed a code of conduct agreement that included a "no gay" clause, which suggests that gay students could remains students in good standing at this Christian-ish school if they were willing to lie about it and keep on lying.

Now, none of this is all that unusual in the religious private school world, and it's a private school, so they're mostly free to do all the discrimination that they imagine Jesus wants them to do. But in states with voucher programs, your tax dollars are funding some of these places (yes, even if it's a tax credit scholarship education savings account accounting tricks bullshit program).

Note also that with a $19K tuition bill, nobody is going to this school strictly on a voucher. That voucher money will go mostly to students and families who already attend.

So good for you, Texas, on holding the line. Keep holding it. I'm pretty sure it's what Jesus wants you to do.

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