Archive | Faith-Based Schools

Montana moms get their day in court

Shortly after Montana created its first tax credit scholarship, Mike Kadas, head of the state’s Department of Revenue, unilaterally declared that scholarships could not be used at religious private schools. Kadas argued the state’s Blaine Amendment, a 19th century relic of Catholic discrimination, barred “direct or indirect” appropriations to religious organizations.

School choice moms struck back with a lawsuit claiming religious discrimination.

“The rule also violates both the state and federal Constitutions because it allows scholarship recipients to attend any private school except religious ones,” Erica Smith, an attorney with the institute, said in a press release at the time. “That’s discrimination against religion.”

Now two years later these moms will have a chance to make their case before the Montana Supreme Court today.

The case may have national implications. To date, cases hinged on whether the use of school voucher programs violated so-called “separation of church and state” requirements in the U.S. and state constitutions. Sixteen years ago the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Zelman v. Simmons-Harris that vouchers did not violate the U.S. Constitution. Several other state supreme courts have ruled the same.

While choosing a religious school with vouchers, or tax credit scholarships, is constitutional, is it constitutional for states to prohibit parents from choosing religious options only? Continue Reading →

Florida will honor an education trailblazer

Civil rights activist Mary McLeod Bethune opened a private, faith-based school in Daytona in 1904 to expand educational opportunity for African-American girls. (Photo from State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory.)

A pioneering educator will be the first black woman honored at National Statuary Hall.

Gov. Rick Scott on Monday night signed SB 472, a measure replacing Florida’s statue of Confederate General E. Kirby Smith with one of Mary McLeod Bethune.

Her likeness will join that of John Gorrie, the father of air conditioning, representing the Sunshine State at the U.S. Capitol.

Bethune was a civil rights leader and educational freedom-fighter whose commitment to racial uplift resonates in the present.

As this blog has noted before:

With $1.50 to her name, Bethune opened the Daytona Educational and Industrial Training School for Negro Girls in 1904. There were public schools for black students in early 1900s Florida, but they were far inferior to white schools.

Bethune’s vision for something better was shaped by her own educational experience.

She attended three private, faith-based schools as a student. She taught at three private, faith-based schools before building her own. In every case, support for those schools, financial and otherwise, came from private contributions, religious institutions – and the communities they served. Backers were motivated by the noble goal of expanding educational opportunity. Black parents ached for it. That’s why, in the early days of her school, Bethune rode around Daytona on a second-hand bicycle, knocking on doors to solicit donations. That’s why her students mashed sweet potatoes for fund-raiser pies, while Bethune rolled up the crust.

Fla. Hare Krishna school gives lessons in service

A student meticulously counts beads at Bhaktivedanta Academy in Alachua, a Hare Krishna school

Alachua, Fla. – The art projects were distinct from most others. Students at Bhaktivedanta Academy had to use pieces of trash to create artwork weighing less than 50 pounds.

The project, Trashformations, was part of the 19th-annual student recycled art competition sponsored by the Alachua County Commission.

Students at the academy, which is rooted in the Hindu faith, worked tirelessly and won first place for their aquarium they built entirely out of discarded materials. They also garnered a third-place award for a city built out of similar material.

But the students did not complete the project to win awards or receive course credit. They wanted to bring awareness to the community of the need to recycle.

This was not their first community service project. Students at the academy have also collected food items and necessities for families in need, while others visited homebound individuals. Several students recently baked cupcakes, raising $296 for families in Puerto Rico.

David Aguilera, the school’s principal, said community projects are a central part of the Hare Krishna faith. The academy is open to students from diverse religious backgrounds, and it works to instill tenets like community service in all its students.

“The basic principle of Krishna Consciousness is we all have a relationship with God,” he said. “Our life purpose is to reestablish that relationship in loving service.” Continue Reading →

All things are possible when students have options

For those of us who follow school choice discussions, the past two weeks have given ample material for conversation, given National School Choice Week, followed by Catholic Schools Week, and the news of the imminent closing of nine Jubilee Catholic Schools with their unique history and mission in Memphis, Tennessee.

During School Choice Week, CSF’s New Hampshire program was part of a happy gathering with 350 people showing up in the middle of an ice storm to celebrate what can happen when parents are empowered with real educational choices for their children. The New Hampshire tax credit program is growing and there is a possibility of education savings accounts (ESAs) in the future. This has uncovered parental demand for more options, and in response, the Catholic Superintendent announced they will actually be opening four new schools. The size of the tax credit program to date does not support four new schools, but the change in culture and expectations does.  It has become an environment of hope and excitement about what’s possible. Continue Reading →

Public, private schools’ partnership lifts up Orlando neighborhood

Every week, students and parents at Calvary City Christian Academy, a K-12 school in one of Orlando’s most hardscrabble communities, convert groceries into care packages for scores of their neighbors.

That those neighbors happen to be homeless students at Sadler Elementary, another school three blocks away, is only the first clue that the relationship between these high-poverty schools – one public, one private – is special.

For four years, the schools have worked hand-in-hand to serve their students, parents and neighborhoods, regardless of which school the students attend.

The result: Both schools and their heavily Hispanic populations now benefit from a wide array of social services – everything from English-language classes to housing assistance – provided by the church affiliated with Calvary. Both see each other as assets that can best uplift a community by cooperating. And both are quietly offering a glimpse of what’s possible if artificial walls between public and private schools can be knocked down.

“We’re modeling what is right by working together,” said Calvary principal Denise Vega. “That sends a message to our parents. We’re not divided. We’re not two. We’re one. One with one purpose – to work together to make sure our children in our lower-income communities are getting everything possible. That only happens when you unite.” Continue Reading →

Florida schools roundup: Irma edition

Shelter from the storm. Florida’s public schools opened themselves up to evacuees. The 74. Tampa Bay Times. (More here). Naples Daily News. Bradenton Herald. A Central Florida Muslim school did, too. Mic. School employees helped out during the storm. GradebookEducation Week. They found room for stranded people at the last minute. Tampa Bay Times. And they kept evacuees entertained. Tampa Bay Times.  Neighbors helped out, too. Gradebook. Evacuees left some shelters as forecasts shifted. Miami Herald. Continue Reading →

Florida schools roundup: All schools in state closed for hurricane, and more

Storm closes all schools: Gov. Rick Scott orders all public K-12 schools, colleges and universities in the state closed today through Monday so that they may be used as shelters for people fleeing from Hurricane Irma. Associated PressFlorida Department of EducationOrlando Sentinel. Tallahassee Democrat. Panama City News Herald. Brevard County school officials decide to move payday up a week to help employees prepare for the hurricane. Florida Today. How a Florida school district prepares for a hurricane. School Transportation News.

New school site: Manatee County commissioners won’t support the site plan for the new high school being built in Parrish because the structure won’t meet hurricane shelter standards. A school attorney defended the board, saying meeting shelter standards would add 7 to 10 percent to the $80 million budgeted for North River High School. The school board does not need the commission’s approval to proceed, and the 3-3 vote frees the board from abiding by some of the details agreed to by the school district and county planners, such as traffic, sidewalk construction and stormwater retention, if it chooses to. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

One robe color: A Hillsborough County School Board member says she supports a school doing away with special graduation robes for its highest achieving students. Earlier this week, Leto High School announced it would stick with a single robe color for all graduates instead of dressing the highest achievers with a different color. Tamara Shamburger says “the two robe colors are nothing more than a type of caste system that really punishes those who are less academically successful rather than honor those who have achieved high academic success.” Gradebook.

Continue Reading →

Catching up on nationwide private school enrollment trends

Editor’s note (Aug. 23): This post contains significant updates and corrections. The original version erroneously reported a drop in private school enrollment between 2013 and 2015. The error occurred because it compared 2013 data that included Pre-K students with 2015 data that did not. We regret this mistake. The revised post provides accurate year-to-year comparisons.

The U.S. Department of Education is out this week with a new report on private school data from across the country. The last such data came out two years ago. Here’s what the numbers from the 2015-16 school year show.

Here’s what the numbers from the 2015-16 school year show.

Enrollment in private schools reversed its decline. In addition, there were more private schools and more private school teachers.

Between 2013 and 2015, the number of students rose 7 percent, to 4,903,596.

The number of teachers rose faster, by about nine percent, to 481,558.

Meanwhile, the number of schools jumped by nearly 1,000, to 34,576.

This factoid might be related. In the fall of 2013, roughly 36 percent of private schools had fewer than 50 students. Two years later, 46 percent of private schools fell in that category.

Enrollment in faith-based schools is growing. But enrollment in Catholic schools was close to flat. It increased by a little more than half of one percent. Enrollment other religious chools grew faster — by nearly 13 percent during the same period. Non-sectarian schools, meanwhile, grew by nearly 10 percent.

Continue Reading →