Earlier this week, The New Star published an article questioning the way Louisiana goes about its funding of nonpublic schools. According to the state's constitution, all nonpublic schools must certify that it has "curriculum or specialized course of study of quality at least equal to that prescribed for similar public schools." This has prompted some critics to point out the sorry state of affairs found in many private and parochial schools in Louisiana — institutions that brazenly tout a creationist agenda. And indeed, a closer look at the educational literature reveals a definite anti-science bias.
As The New Star is reporting, it's not clear that the state's requirements are being met before it dishes out millions of dollars to private and parochial schools:
"We don't look at the quality of the curriculum," said BESE member James Garvey of Metairie, who co-chairs the board's School Innovation and Turnaround Committee.
"We don't look at what they teach," he said. "We look at the system. We look at policies and procedures, not what they teach. It's how they teach and not what they teach."
Garvey, an attorney, said he wasn't aware of the constitutional requirement but knew that it's in rules BESE adopted for approving nonpublic schools.
The constitutional provision has been used in court decisions to show that curriculum equality is the only basis BESE can use to approve or reject a nonpublic school's application for state endorsement.
Currently, 377 nonpublic schools have state approval, and a BESE member raises doubts about whether their approval meets the constitutional requirement.
Indeed, as BuzzFeed's Andrew Kaczynski pointed out on Monday, fifth graders in some state-sponsored schools in Louisiana study both creationism and evolution as competing theories. The students are told to question science and ask, "Is it fact, or theory?" The BJU Press materials that they use offer "Christ-centered resources for education, edification, and evangelization."
Check out what Kaczynski dug up:
As Greg Mayer of Why Evolution Is True points out, it's not clear from Kaczynski's article what schools are using these materials. "However, even if these schools were held to state standards, that wouldn't be saying much in Louisiana," he writes, "which passed its infamous, creationist Louisiana Science Education Act."
Mayer also points to a recent report (be sure to check out the cover) on science education standards which sums up Louisiana's constitution:
The Louisiana science standards are reasonably challenging and comprehensive, but they suffer from a devastating flaw: Thanks to the state's 2008 Science Education Act, which promotes creationism instead of science, the standards (especially for biology and life science) are haunted by anti-science influences that threaten biology education in the state.
Thankfully, efforts to repeal the law are already underway, including an endorsement from 78 Nobelists.
All images via BuzzFeed.