Monday, January 30, 2012

Can a Man Of God Run a School For The State?

Jersey Jazzman and I have been using our blogs in the last week or so to raise questions about the Regis Academy that was approved by Acting Commissioner Cerf for Cherry Hill, Voorhees, Lawnside and Somerdale.  Jersey Jazzman came up with a great timeline that raises some serious questions as to how and why this application made it through the supposedly tough new application process.

I have some additional questions.

The first question stems from the videos that surfaced of Amir and Aughtney Kahn relishing the defeat of the marriage equality bill and vowing to continue to fight against the bill any time it comes before the legislature.  If you haven't seen them yet, you can catch them here and here.

It is important to note that each and every applicant for a charter school, including Amir and Aughtney Khan, must sign a Statement of Assurances when they apply for a charter that says the charter:

(W)ill be open to all students, on a space available basis, and shall not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, creed, sex, ethnicity, sexual orientation, mental or physical disability, age, ancestry, athletic performance, special need, proficiency in the English language or a foreign language, or academic achievement.  

Is it conceivable that two pastors that feel so strongly that the LGBT community should not have the same rights as the rest of us would be able to admit gay students to their school and treat them equally?  Or hire gay teachers?  Or make gay parents feel welcome?

And then today I saw on an online petition (go sign it!) on Twitter against the National Heritage Academy which is trying  to set up a charter against community wishes in Chapel Hill, NC.  This is the charter the Ragin' Grannies were protesting.  

The petition includes a quote from self-described evangelical J.C. Huizenga (cousin of billionaire H. Wayne Huizenga)."   He is the man behind NHA (and big surprise that there's another billionaire in the mix, huh?)

Asked by the Wall Street Journal whether he would hire a homosexual to teach, Huizenga said, "Personally, I don’t believe a gay teacher is an appropriate teacher for a child."

NHA, which currently lists 71 locations on it's website, has also been in hot water for promoting religious activities and teaching creationism.  From a New York Times article in 2000: 

National Heritage has been sued by the American Civil Liberties Union in Michigan over what the group says is the company's promotion of religious activities, including prayer sessions for parents, in a charter school there. National Heritage says it provides parents with a meeting room and some have prayed there, but not with the school's sanction. The suit is pending.
National Heritage policy is to treat both evolution and the Biblical creation story as theories. Carolyn Thompson, a fifth-grade science teacher at Knapp Charter Academy and an evangelical Christian, says she believes in "creationism and then evolution from that point on" - and teaches it that way in class.

Becky Bullen, a fourth-grade teacher at Knapp, told her students about dinosaurs last year - and learned a lesson herself. Some parents protested that fossil evidence of dinosaurs, which became extinct 65 million years ago, contradicted their Biblical belief that God created the world 6,000 years ago. Since then, Ms. Bullen has dropped the dinosaurs and says, "I basically try to steer clear of any hot issues."

No hotter issue in public education than dinosaurs...

And this is from the same Wall Street Journal article:

Charter schools, which operate independently of local school districts, were intended to create a choice for parents discontented with traditional public schools. Under Michigan law, charter schools get almost as much per capita funding as area public schools - nearly $6,000 in National Heritage's case.

It didn't occur to many people that tuition-burdened parents at religious schools would also welcome an alternative, particularly one featuring small classes, strict discipline and moral education. But today, charters are taking market share from fundamentalist schools, their predecessors as the hottest phenomenon in American education. And charters' smudging of the separation of church and state has stirred up an unlikely combination of opponents: private religious competitors and civil-liberties advocates.

"Charter schools are often a ruse for the kind of schooling that the Supreme Court has said violates the Constitution," says Kary Moss, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan, which is suing National Heritage for promoting religion.

About one-tenth of the nation's 400,000-plus charter-school students come from private schools. But at National Heritage, 19.7 percent are private-school transfers. And that doesn't count any of the 17 percent or so of the student body who started at National Heritage in kindergarten, and might otherwise have opted for private school.

The phenomenon goes beyond National Heritage. At Marvin Winans Academy, one of several Detroit charters started by ministers, one-fourth of the students transferred from religious schools. The Rev. Robert J. Coverson, who runs a small Baptist school in Detroit, says he may have to close it because he has lost half of his students to charters. 

Now, I understand these articles are from more than 10 years ago, but there is no reason to think these exact same issues aren't occurring here in NJ in 2012.  If anything, the example of the Regis Academy is more egregious. 

You have two pastors closing their private Christian school to open a publicly funded charter.  The charter will be located on the same premises as the pastor's church.  Are we to believe that a large portion of the parents that paid to go to Children of Promise will not be the first in line to attend Regis for free?  

Not to mention, Children Of Promise was charging $5,400 per child as a private school.  But Regis Academy will be allotted 90% of the per pupil funding of the sending districts.  Let's do the math.  The Cherry Hill district stated they have been billed $9,551 for each student that chooses to attend Regis, based on the preliminary estimates from the NJDOE.  That's a nice jump of $4,151 per child in tuition for the Khans, and all they had to do was apply for a charter!  

Are we really expected to believe that they can just switch gears from a curriculum that is based on the teaching of bible verses to a secular curriculum with no religious content at all?  This is the program description from the website for Children of Promise:

Elementary Education: Bible is taught in a deeper level at these grades. Oral recitation of memory verses is integral at this stage as it will greatly aid in their cognitive and memory recall development.  History, geography, health, safety, manners, arithmetic (number recognition to the hundred thousands, metric system, carrying, borrowing, story problems, multiple combinations and estimations) are just a few of the things your child will be learning.

When Khan responded to being awarded the charter by the NJDOE he said:

I thank God that we got approved

And here's a video (that is also backed up if it gets taken down…) of the interior of the school.  There's an awful lot of religious stuff that's gotta come down for this to be a public school. 

like the music?

Remind me again how this will be a secular school?

1 comment:

  1. So he is going to house his Children of Promise day care and CHRISTIAN school, Delaware Valley BIBLE College and "dozens and dozens and dozens of people" can be housed in the rectory and convent (I assume the ex-offenders from his Nehemiah Group) as well as the supposedly non-religous Regis Academy Charter School. Give me a break! That cannot be possible. Also, he is going to not only get $9000+ per child, the sending districts, not the charter, must provide the children transportation! This is despicable!