2nd Opinion: ‘School-choice’ vouchers provide solution to educational crisis

(Photo: rpstanton / CC BY-ND 2.0 via flickr)

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With all due respect to a fellow brother in the faith, Marv Knox’s claims in his editorial, “Tell legislators what you think about ‘school-choice’ vouchers,” do not accurately reflect historical and biblical Baptist core values and are completely void of current research demonstrating the positive impact of school-choice measures.

Larry Taylor 125Larry TaylorA few of Mr. Knox’s claims are that “school-choice” options, such as vouchers, violate Baptist principles and the “common good”—a core Baptist value. He claims vouchers deny Baptists’ historic commitment to the separation of church and state because taxpayer’s money will support parochial education. He also claims vouchers deny Jesus’ admonition to care for “the least” among society, and they expand racial segregation.

Core values

Mr. Knox’s primary conviction is the use of taxpayer funds violates our Baptist core values. He graduated from Hardin-Simmons University, a prestigious private Baptist school in Texas. Taxpayer funding grants, or “vouchers,” at Hardin-Simmons have been used for a very long time. Students at Hardin-Simmons use the Federal Pell Grant, the Texas Tuition Equalization Grant and the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant, which are taxpayer-funded grants, or “vouchers.” Thus, the “separation of church and state” argument falls flat, unless, of course, those making these claims want to apply the same standard at the university level.

I also would contend it is highly reasonable to forecast a successful implementation of K-12 taxpayer funding plans, based on the success they have been at the private and/or faith-based university level.

He also claims vouchers deny Jesus’ admonition to care for “the least” among society. I encourage everyone to study the facts. Most, if not all, university “vouchers” are need-based grants. The very people Mr. Knox claims are not being served are, in fact, the ones being served. These “vouchers” assist the poor and help private and faith-based universities, including our Baptist schools, become more racially diverse.

There are plenty of examples in which the poor and racial-based desegregation issues have substantially improved, thanks to school choice.

Probe resources

I would encourage those interested to probe resources, such as The ABCs Of School Choice-2017 edition—providing research on America’s 61 school-choice programs passed into law in 30 states and the District of Columbia. Examine the “school choice” model in Georgia, Florida and several other states where different forms of school choice are benefiting the poor and minority groups. Read through the study by the Brookings Institution and Harvard Kennedy School from January 2013 on school choice that found minority students who received a school voucher to attend private elementary schools in 1997 were, as of 2013, 10 percent more likely to enroll in college and 35 percent more likely than their counterparts in public school to receive a college degree.

One of the most powerful correlations for upward mobility with minorities, and those in poverty, is whether a person graduates from college. Those with college degrees earn, on average, $4.4 million over the course of their lives, compared to the $1.2 million earned by individuals that graduate from high school but don’t earn university degrees, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. If private K-12 schools place more minorities and high-poverty students in college, it clearly has a positive impact on society and the common good.

Furthermore, The Cardus Education Survey research project studied students six to 21 years after they graduated high school—ages 24-39. The Cardus group is a “think tank” and consists of respected faith-based scholars in Canada and the United States. These researchers used a statistical analysisto understand better the role of Christian K-12 schools in students’ lives and society. This study found Protestant Christian school graduateswere more hopeful, thankful and optimistic about their lives and were more generous with their money, time, service to their community and to global humanitarian needs. In summary, the research shows private faith-based schools have a significant impact on families, society and common good.

Historical stand

Finally, Mr. Knox implies Baptists are at their best by being great members of their communities and not supporting private, faith-based schools. Once again, this does not actually align with our Baptist history.

Historically, there was a time when the Southern Baptists apparently viewed education differently. They invested millions of dollars to build more than 50 universities, many of which still receive millions of state convention dollars subsidizing the schools’ operations. Building and sustaining private, Baptist faith-based universities removes students from mainstream society, which is the very criticism being levied on K-12 schools. Above any Baptist core value is the biblical mandate to reproduce our kind and to transmit a biblical worldview to the next generation. Honoring the Great Commission in Matthew 28 today with faith-integrated K-12 education transcends Baptist core values.

Baptists have an opportunity to offer a solution to the current educational crisis in our country. It’s an opportunity to provide educational alternatives to the inner cities and the underprivileged. Any assistance to accomplish this goal, including taxpaying grants of all kinds, would elevate the hearts and minds of children, especially children and parents who currently cannot afford to choose their education. Baptists should be first in line to rally for the hearts and minds of children.

Larry Taylor is head of school at Prestonwood Christian Academy, a ministry of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano.

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