by Diane Ravitch, 4/27/13
There is good reason for separation of church and state.
America was founded by religious dissidents. Our Founding Fathers wrote into the First Amendment that Congress was not permitted to establish a religion. They wanted all people of all faiths–or none–to live in peace.
Some states had an established religion for a time, but religious diversity made established religion untenable.
One of the great things about public school is that it is separate from religious practice. Everyone, regardless of the religion they hold dear, may learn together.
But what happens when the town itself is controlled by a single religious group? What happens when that sect controls the public schools while its own children attend religious schools? What happens to the public schools?
Here is what happens. It is not a pretty story: They gut them.
From the story:
“Midway through her junior year, something seemed to give way. The school’s deans, who had handled discipline, had been laid off, and many students started arriving at school very late or skipping it entirely. The security staff was also cut, and so fights became more frequent, and students often stayed shut in their classrooms until the halls cleared. Clubs were eliminated, as well as sports teams and the drama program, until the communal life of the schools disappeared and it seemed to Olivia Castor, another Spring Valley High School student, that the school board’s vision of education consisted of little more than “reading, writing, and arithmetic.”
“Then those were cut, too. Last year, the kindergarten school day was reduced by half. AP classes and ESL programs fell by the wayside. In the high schools, so many teachers have been laid off that students can’t fill their schedules: Some have five lunch periods and study halls in an eight-period day. This year, the district floated a proposal to eliminate kindergarten altogether and shorten the school day for everyone else. Jean Fields, the principal of Ramapo High School, told me that if that measure were adopted, not a single student would qualify for the Advanced Regent’s Diploma, considered essential for getting into competitive colleges. Almost half of her 1,400 students would no longer be able to graduate in four years, because they simply will not be able to amass enough credits in time. Last week, the district pulled the most draconian cuts off the table, and suggested firing 50 additional teachers and staff members instead. Even this will mean more students who can’t fill their schedules with classes. “It’s not that we don’t care about graduating,” says Castor. “It’s that the tools for us to graduate are being taken away. We don’t have the classes that can give you a chance to compete.