There are two very closely related aspects of government subsidy to non-public schools (and particularly to our Christian, covenantal schools) which we must still consider. One aspect is that of any possible government control which might be involved; the other aspect, inseparably connected, is that of the principles of education on which the theory of government subsidy is based and to which it gives expression and to which it will inevitably lead those schools which accept any proffered subsidy.
While these two aspects may be distinguished, they are nevertheless very closely related. And the relationship is this, that government control will enable the government to enforce its ideas of education upon those schools to which it provides subsidy.
The theory is the well-known one: he who holds the purse-strings calls the tune.
The question is, in the first place, whether this theory is applicable to the situation at hand. That is, will government subsidy lead inevitably, or even most probably, to government’s having a share and insisting upon a share in “calling the tune?” And, in the second place, if the answer to the first question is affirmative, the question then is whether such governmental “calling the tune” is wrong and not to be allowed.
Before proceeding to answer these questions, I must make a couple of additional introductory remarks. The first is this, that even if the answer to the first of the above questions should be negative, this would not, in my opinion, justify parochiaid. Not only are there other reasons for this, some of which I have already presented; but there also are other very serious questions concerning the very idea of government subsidy. For example, just how much has the modem trend toward socialism governed the thinking of the advocates of parochiaid? Just how much has “welfare state” philosophy and the desire for a hand-out motivated the drive for parochiaid? Or to phrase the question from a spiritual, ethical point of view, just what part does simple covetousness play in this drama? What part does a lack of conviction, deep-seated conviction, conviction for which we are willing to sacrifice if necessary, with respect to covenantal education play in this clamor for subsidy? What part does faith play in this? How much of Christian contentment is there in it? How much of a Christian sense of values is there in it? I am well aware that there are those who “see red” when questions like these are asked or even suggested. And it always strikes me that this very fact could be a give-away. But it also strikes me as very strange that in this “affluent society,” even taking into account the pressures of inflation and the wage-price squeeze, and even taking into account the fact that there are those who find it really difficult to meet the costs of covenantal education,—that in such an age as this the clamor for parochiaid should arise. I could perhaps understand it if in the depths of the depression, when our parents had to scratch and scrape to get together $2 per week for school money for an entire family, there would have been difficulty in meeting school expenses, with the result that people began to look in the direction of government for aid. But today? By and large, there is today no financial reason why any cause of the kingdom, our schools included, should have to beg and lead a hand-to-mouth existence. If only the conviction and the will is there! Hence, I say, even apart from the question asked in the preceding paragraph, we all do well to pay attention to the morals involved in seeking and accepting government subsidy.
And my second introductory remark is this, that we must examine the right or wrong of any government control not from the point of view of any particular political philosophy, but from the point of view of Christian principle. Specifically, the question is: is it right or wrong for covenant parents to allow any other person or body to control, either wholly or in part, the schooling of their God-given covenant children? If it is wrong, principally wrong, then no amount of utilitarian reasoning can justify it. Principle must rule.
And now we turn to the questions.
Does Government Subsidy Involve Government Control?
It would appear that the answer to this question for anyone who considers government subsidy in its various concrete forms, and not merely in the abstract, must be an unqualified Yes. Seldom, if ever, does any branch of government appropriate funds for any project whatsoever without at the same time exercising control over the manner and time and purposes for which the money is to be spent. It does not authorize the spending of funds without some kind of string attached. This is true of city government. It is true of public school districts. It is true of state government, also in so far as it turns any state funds over to other arms of government, whether to the cities, to the counties, or to the school districts. It is just about axiomatic with respect to the federal government, so that there are even political battles fought about preserving “states’ rights” while at the same time accepting federal funds for various projects. And, indeed, this is reasonable from the government’s point of view; it may be expected, and even demanded, that when a government authorizes the expenditure of its money, that same government which holds the purse strings has the right to say something about how and for what the money is spent. It may also be expected that the granting and withholding of such funds is made dependent upon compliance or non-compliance with the restrictions imposed, so that there is a built-in enforcement device in such grants. It may also be expected that the government which grants the funds makes provision for investigation as to whether or not the restrictions are observed. And it may even be expected that the law will provide penalties in case of disobedience to the restrictions imposed. And, as I indicated, it is rather well recognized that the federal government has in all these respects become like a giant octopus, reaching into almost every phase of life in today’s society.
But we are concerned especially with education.
Speaking generally, we all know that the federal government is at this very time using the granting and withholding of federal funds in an attempt to enforce desegregation of schools in various states. We all know, too, that in the various states, when financial grants are made to local or county school districts, the state exercises rather strict control upon the manner in which such money is spent, so that local public schools must live up to various state requirements in order to obtain state funds. This is true in Michigan, and I would guess that it is true in other states as well.
But speaking specifically of government subsidy to non-public schools, I have yet to see either a law or a significant proposal for government subsidy (federal or state) to a private institution of learning which does not involve some degree of government control.
As far as federal funds (grants and loans) to private colleges are concerned, there are definite restrictions, for example, in the 1963 Higher Educational Facilities Act. This bill provides for federal loans and grants to colleges for facilities such as library, science, physical education, and classroom buildings. And the law provides that such facilities (including equipment and materials) may not “be used for sectarian instruction or religious worship, or primarily in connection with any part of the program of a school or department of divinity.” And there have been religious-oriented colleges which have come into conflict with this provision; some have bowed to the restrictions (and it is still a question how far these restrictions extend), and others have attempted to get out from under the restrictions by paying back the federal funds. But the fact remains that federal funds involve federal control and restrictions.
The same is true of state subsidy.
It is significant to get the thinking of public school supporters and anti-parochiaid forces on this score. For even though these forces might not succeed immediately to get all the restrictions which they want, you can depend on it that they will work until they succeed in getting what they want. Remember, too, that the public school forces are in the majority. Here is a sample of their thinking in my state of Michigan. State Senator Gilbert Bursley was a member of the Joint Legislative Committee on Aid to Non-Public Schools which drew up the report referred to in earlier articles. Already early this year he was reported by Associated Press to have said, “. . .acceptance of public funds by nonpublic schools would ultimately lead to loss of control over their schools by nonpublic authorities.” Recently he was reported to have listed “three standards which now apply to public schools which he feels should be extended to private and religious units.” According to the Grand Rapids Press of Sept. 9, 1969, these standards were:
—Require nonpublic schools to accomplish consolidation and reorganization. “It would be totally wrong,” Bursley said, “to require the small inefficient public school districts to reorganize and then to subsidize small, parochial schools without requiring the same compliance with reorganization guidelines.” (Can you imagine what would happen to our little Prot. Ref. schools under a restriction like this? HCH)
—Require nonpublic schools to submit full financial and budget reports to the State Department of Education and Appropriation Committees of the legislature.
—Provide that teachers of secular subjects in nonpublic schools be employees of the intermediate school district, a public agency, and not the employees of a religious body. (In other words, the intermediate school district would control our teachers. HCH)
This is a sample of the thinking of a foe of parochiaid; and there are many such foes, who, if they finally must grant parochiaid, will do their utmost to write in such restrictions.
Here is a sample of a proposal for parochiaid from a Dr. Leroy Augenstein, member of the State Board of Education in Michigan. The Grand Rapids Press reported that he proposes that each school-age child would be given a voucher for sufficient funds to insure him an adequate education, with the voucher being redeemable at schools that:
—Provide for proper certification of all teachers and curriculum.
—Select faculty on a nondiscriminatory basis.
—Make religious training optional and remove all religious symbols from the classroom.
—Accept all students regardless of their race and religion.
Talk about controls! True, this is not a legislative proposal, much less a law, as yet. But it is a significant sample of the thinking of an official in an influential position.
The proposal of the Joint Legislative Committee (which was actually under consideration in the Michigan Legislature last spring) had the following controls written into it, p. 27:
6. No Intermediate Board of Education would purchase any educational services in courses of instruction in religion.
7. In order to assure that the state was receiving appropriate services for state aid, the State Board of Education should annually test pupil achievement in courses of instruction purchased in order to determine the secular effect and whether the secular educational legislative purposes are being achieved.
8. The State Board should require audits (similar to those required of public school districts) of the financial and child accounting records of the nonpublic schools as they pertained to the purchase of services.
House Bill 2424 (the parochiaid bill before the last session of the state legislature) had similar language in it.
There are other proposals brought up and mentioned in the news occasionally. But every proposal of note which is considered to have any chance of serious legislative consideration has restrictions written into it. Generally, the restrictions take two forms: 1) a restriction in the very nature of the subsidy, based upon a secular-religious distinction in education. 2) various restrictions designed to enforce the restriction under “1”.
And it is not difficult to see: 1) That any school would be virtually tied hand and foot by these laws. 2) That there would be great pressure on a school board and teaching staff to make its curriculum and instruction measure up to “the secular educational legislative purposes.” 3) That once subsidy is accepted by a school, the fear of having to get along without subsidy would have the effect of inducing a school to accept even more restrictions and certainly would have the effect of making a school very reluctant to do anything which might entail loss of subsidy. Subsidy is like dope. Once you accept it and become addicted to it, it is extremely difficult and painful to break the habit. This is history’s lesson.
But the question remains: is such control good or bad, right or wrong?
To this question we shall address ourselves next time.