Taxpayers are helping to pay for courses and textbooks that encourage students to mistrust science, mathematics, and the secular world itself – and those efforts seem likely to expand into other states.
Currently, taxpayers in 14 states funnel nearly $1 billion in private school tuition through voucher programs, paying those schools to teach children that Adam and Eve lived alongside dinosaurs less than 10,000 years ago in the Garden of Eden.
Politico reviewed hundreds of pages of course outlines, textbooks, and school website and reported Monday that many of these taxpayer-funded, faith-based schools portray science and mathematics as a web of lies.
Textbooks popular in Christian schools describe evolution as “a wicked and vain philosophy,” while students practice vocabulary lessons that claim “many scientists today are creationists.”
According to the report, schools often distort basic facts about the scientific method, set aside time during math lessons to explore numbers in the Bible, or teach that mathematics laws were ordained by God.
The schools make clear that religious instruction is a higher priority than academic learning, which students are taught to mistrust.
"Our understanding is not complete until we filter it through God’s Word," one school assures parents.
Lawmakers in 26 states are considering new voucher programs or expanding existing ones, and eight states are looking at establishing individual bank accounts funded by taxpayers that parents could spend on tuition, tutors, and textbooks.
About 250,000 students use vouchers and tax-credit scholarships, up about 30 percent since 2010.
Voucher proponents see a tipping point approaching, when so many students receive publicly financed private education that all states will demand that option.
But critics say the growth of anti-science education, especially as scientists have made recent advances in our understanding of the universe and its origins, is preparing students “for the turn of the 19th Century.”
Not all religious schools teach creationism, but science education activists have identified 300 such schools that also receive public subsidies.
But that’s likely a significant undercount, because the database does not include Pennsylvania or Iowa, and many church-based schools don’t have websites that advertise their curriculum.
Voucher programs also undermine the bipartisan push for uniformly high academic standards through Common Core, which has been the target of Tea Party ire in states across the country, and Next Generation Science Standards, opponents say.
Voucher supporters have knocked out anti-voucher candidates from primary races and funded local advocacy groups, often with backing from the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity.
The conservative advocacy group promoted private school subsidies in 10 states – including Maine, Tennessee, Virginia, and Wisconsin – in the last year alone and has spent $18 million on such campaigns since 2007.
With sympathetic lawmakers in place, school voucher funding looks to expand in states such as Arizona, Florida, and New York – and at the federal level.
Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) proposed the consolidation of dozens of federal education programs into one $24 billion fund that states could allocate as vouchers for low-income students, and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) has promoted vouchers and other so-called school choice measures.
The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld voucher programs, even when they subsidize religious education, as long as parents who accept vouchers can choose where to spend them.
But some state constitutions are more restrictive, and the American Civil Liberties Union is suing to block them in New Hampshire and Colorado, and litigation is also under way in Alabama.
[Image: 'Elementary School Kids In Science Class Using A Microscope via Shutterstock]