Texas Charter School Promotes Religion

Doesn’t seem like news that publicly funded schools in Texas promote religion.  But this story from the New York Times has a twist you might not have expected.

Anyone who pays attention to this stuff might expect Texas public schools to be woefully (or wonderfully, depending on your POV) entangled with religion.  Whether it is preaching in the form of Bible classes, cheerleaders with Bible verse banners, creationism in the science textbooks, or just a general Long-Game style fight for more Jesus and less Devil, Texas schools have long seemed friendly to Jesus.  Texas’ conservative “Revisionaries” have worked long and hard to make public schools friendly for faith.

A recent story in the New York Times features a different sort of religious entanglement.  In this case, it is not a question of teachers leading Protestant prayers, or students protesting against learning evolution.

In this case, a charter school has been accused of using public money to promote the Jewish religion.

The San Antonio school, Eleanor Kolitz Hebrew Language Academy, teaches in Hebrew and has classes about Israeli culture.  Doesn’t seem to be a problem there.  Lots of publicly funded charter schools focus on a specific non-English language and culture.

But according to journalist Edgar Walters, the school has drawn attention as a potential church/state problem since the new charter school seems to be nothing more than a cynical reincarnation of an existing religious school.  Critics worry that religious schools are simply conducting a name change on paper in order to win public money.

School leaders insist they don’t teach religion.  But one board member admitted they have the same head of school and most of the same staff as they did when they were an explicitly religious school.  As a private Jewish day school, the Eleanor Kolitz Academy used no public money.  But now as a charter school in the same building with the same staff, they receive public funding.

Can religious schools reinvent themselves this way?  It does not seem paranoid to assume that things will go on largely as before at the Kolitz Academy.  It seems a little iffy for religious schools to simply make a name change to start raking in public moolah.

 

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8 Comments

  1. Man, I submitted an article about creationism in charter school to a US magazine website last week. If this story gets big and they don’t run my piece, I’m going to be annoyed.

    Reply
    • Annoyed, sure. This story doesn’t talk at all about “origins” education, but a lot of the talk about creationism in the USA assumes too blithely that creationism = Protestantism. I have no idea about the science on tap at the Kolitz Academy in San Antonio. Their website (not the charter school’s website, the religious school’s) says they “serve students from the entire spectrum of Jewish affiliation and we believe that all children should have access to a Jewish education. Graduates have attended numerous top rated colleges including Harvard, Yale, Stanford, and The University of Texas at Austin.” With that sort of academic emphasis, I’m guessing they teach mainstream science only. But there must be other non-Christian schools in the US, as there are in the UK, that teach a very in-your-face sort of creationist curriculum.

      Reply
      • Yeah, my understanding is that only extremely conservative Jews teach creationism. I don’t mean that this story has stolen my thunder, only that the two are related, since creationism is motivated by religious concerns.

        My article is about two ostensibly secularised versions of Accelerated Christian Education which are used in charter schools.

      • I hope that magazine picks up your story. I can’t wait to see how ACE could be secularized!

  2. MyPrivate Name

     /  November 10, 2013

    I hate to break it to the person who wrote this article, but the teachers who taught the religious studies at the previous school do NOT teach at the new Eleanor Kolitz charter school. A good writer does his/her homework.

    Reply
  3. they do not teach creationism in any way. it will remain pluralist and supports all the tenets of Americas public schools. Freedom of religion does not mean freedom from religion. I respect your faith, Sir, and we are asking you that you also respect ours.

    Reply
    • I understand your concern on forcing religion upon the public, and I respect this organization for keeping America free, but I will assure you that our children are not being taught anything that contradicts standard public education, and the State of Texas is doing a good job to ensure this. I am an Army War veteran and would not send my children to some phony school that scares children with “I love you but you are going to hell.” More power to all of you for standing against bigotry and ignorance. Cultural diversity is part of the American experience, and this is all we are trying to promote here.

      Reply

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