To the Editor:
Is there a “capacity issue” if school voucher and tax-credit programs expand, as many Republican governors and legislators intend (“Capacity Issue Looms for Vouchers,” Education Week, June 15, 2011)? Will finding “physical space” be a problem? No, and no. Why not? The answer is quite simple.
The decline in Catholic school enrollment from 5.5 million in 1965 to about 2 million today means that there is classroom space to spare. And, as the growth in private enrollment in recent years has been mainly in conservative Protestant schools, please note that there are many tens of thousands of religious education facilities in churches nationwide used only on Sundays that could easily and inexpensively be adapted for use for full-time classrooms for millions of K-12 students in voucher programs.
Make no mistake, if the public-funds spigot is opened wide for vouchers and tax credits, churches will be utilized to the maximum for private schools, schools that will inevitably be filled with kids sorted primarily by religious identification and secondarily by ideology, ethnicity, and degree of special need. When and if this happens, public education will shrink to serving mainly the poor and disadvantaged, the teaching profession will degenerate, and education in America will sink to worse than mediocrity.
We must not let this happen.
Americans for Religious Liberty
Silver Spring, Md.
A version of this article appeared in the July 13, 2011 edition of Education Week as Vouchers, Capacity, and Shrinking Public Schools