The war for various forms of government aid to private and parochial schools goes on. Some battles have been lost because the courts have ruled some programs as violations of the First Amendment of the Constitution. But, evidently, those who are interested in such government aid continue to devise new programs which, they hope, will not be struck down by the courts.
One such program, gaining an increasing amount of favor, is the so-called “voucher system.” The plan works this way. The government, whether national, state or regional, which enacts this program, will give to parents sending their children to school a voucher worth an agreed upon sum of money. This voucher will be turned in to the school as part or all of the tuition payment. The school will, in turn, be able to cash in this voucher with the government and receive its value in cash.
This is considered a very excellent plan for more than one reason. On the one hand, it will be a pleasant relief to parents to have part or all of the heavy tuition load carried by the state. On the other hand, it will avoid nasty questions such as whether such a plan is Constitutional (i.e., whether it is in violation of the principle of the separation between Church and State), and whether or not the government will interfere in the administration of the school. After all, the aid is given to parents, not to the school. How then can such a plan be declared unconstitutional? and how can the government interfere in the operation of the school? It seems easy and a way to avoid pitfalls.
This whole plan is discussed in a little magazine calledThe Freeman by a law student named John P. Cahill. He himself is a product of private school education, and is consequently concerned about the preservation of private schools in this country. In discussing this proposed method of government aid to private schools, he approaches the whole question from various viewpoints and shows that also this type of program will lead ultimately to the destruction of private schools. His arguments are worth our notice.
He points out first of all, that the program “ignores some basic principles and obvious facts.” He writes:
1. The unwillingness or inability of the users to continue to pay the tuition and operating costs of the private schools is one reason that they are in need of financial assistance.
2. This inability to pay is in no small part brought about by increased taxes and inflation caused by increased government deficit spending.
3. No one can give what he does not have. If the government is going to pay the expenses of all the children in private schools in addition to those in public schools, it must find a source for the additional funds that will be needed.
4. The government has two sources for these funds: increased taxes or further inflated currency.
Not to be forgotten are the additional hundreds of highly paid bureaucrats who will be needed to administer such a program. The result will hardly be the great triumph of justice which is predicted:
* The taxes of everyone who pays school taxes will increase.
* Some of these taxpayers will now receive a return for their money which they did not receive in pre-voucher days.
* Those with children in the public schools will be forced to pay increased taxes with no increased return.
*Those with no children in any school will pay increased taxes and continue to receive nothing in return.
How anyone could think that confusion and injustice will be anything but compounded. . .
After pointing out these things, the author turns to the matter of government interference in the administration of the schools. Does this type of program avoid that danger? The author’s answer is No.
We live in an age in which government, at all levels, is anything but disinterested. The bureaus and agencies of government are peopled with men beset with the meddling urge as never before in history. Money distributed by the government has seldom had more strings attached than now. Busing to achieve racial balance in the public schools is a good example.
The voucher scheme cries out to be used as an indirect licensing system for the private schools. There are already hints in the press that certain “modifications” and “safeguards” will have to be introduced into the program if it is passed. Private schools, for instance, that maintain a racial imbalance will not be able to cash their vouchers.
There are other points upon which private, especially religious, schools might do well to meditate. Would a school be permitted to cash vouchers if that school promoted teachings contrary to the government policy, such as artificial birth prevention or abortion? Could a school with an “inadequate” sex-education program cash vouchers? Given the temper of the times, one would think that “accreditation” for participation would not come cheaply.
How could the bureaucrat think that it was other than his duty to “protect” the parent and child from the “misuse” or their new found freedom in a “below standard” school? May a school be dropped from the program because its graduates are untrained in sensitivity?
These thoughts must not be overlooked . . .
The author then turns to the subject of participation in the program up to such a time as it becomes impossible to participate without giving in to government control. He considers that withdrawal from such a program, after once being in it, is highly unlikely.
A school would have to be very wealthy indeed to survive if it were to reject its prevailing source of regular income, the government. A school which had grown dependent on the program could be dealt a mortal blow if it withdrew or was expelled from the program. How many parents would continue sending their children if the “free” tuition vouchers from the government were rendered worthless at this school, especially in the face of higher taxation to support the other private schools on the program?
Turning then to what I consider the very heart of the matter, the author writes:
But what of the private schools themselves? Won’t they die out without some sort of government assistance?
Good schools will not die out. There is more to the plight of the private school than the ability of the user to pay. Willingness is a major factor. When the religious school is “secularized” or the denominational or other private school loses its tradition and becomes, in essence, no different than the public school, the sacrifice that a man must make to “pay twice” for his child’s education loses all reason. Why should a man who is forced to support the public school system pay again for a private school education if the product is like that of the public school?
A return to the first principles of their founders may not save private schools. But it is a first step, and a giant one, in the right direction. The voucher system is a step backward and downward into the mire of government control of all aspects of our lives.
How true! And if we put this into the context of our own educational system, we come up with two points which surely cannot be stressed strongly enough. In the first place, we must be sure that our schools are indeed what they purport to be: Christian Schools. They must be schools which give instruction which in every respect is in harmony with the Word of God and the Reformed faith. This is the responsibility of all of us whether teachers or parents. Only then will our schools be worth maintaining.
In the second place, the key word is “willingness.” The author speaks of this. Put into the context of the responsibility and privilege of covenant instruction of covenant children, this willingness is surely all-important. And where it is present, there will be sufficient financial means to support these schools without government assistance and the threat of government control.
The Argument Over Abortion
Although a liberalization of abortion laws appeared on the ballot in several states and was defeated, the fight goes on. It was somewhat disconcerting to note in the general debates prior to last November’s election that even the Church, when entering the debate opposed to abortion, often did not take its stand on the Word of God, but argued the issue on purely humanistic and moralistic grounds. This happens with disconcerting frequency when the Church enters the public arena and begins to debate legislation—even when the Church is, so to speak, on the “right side.” However that may be, the case for abortion was a sad commentary on the condition of our times. This case was perhaps nowhere so eloquently stated as in a recent column inNewsweek written by Shana Alexander. She writes:
What the abortion fight really comes down to is whether one should yield dominion over one’s body to the state—or to the church, or the medical profession, or any other institution. I oppose abortion laws for the same reason I oppose brainwashing, or the Thought Police: the state will please keep its cotton-pickin’ hands as far away from me as possible, mind and body. Or in the eloquent language of Judge Jon O. Newman, who wrote the majority opinion in the latest pro-abortion victory in Connecticut, “If the right of privacy means anything, it is the right of the individual, married or single, to be free from unwarranted governmental intrusion into matters so fundamentally affecting a person as the decision whether to bear or beget a child.”
To believe this is not to deny the mystery of birth, nor the sanctity of life. To understand that a fetus is not a “person” in any constitutional sense, and cannot thus be “murdered”, is not to equate the unborn with blob. There is still room for legitimate philosophical disputation. But more interesting is that open debate on these matters is, for the first time in history, making women fully aware of their own rights to a full life on equal terms with men. Not just full sexual life, but full social and professional and economic and political life.
As women realize they can change their own lot by taking political action to change the law, they will begin to move into the economic area, into protests against sex differentials in wages, salaries, benefits and opportunities for advancement—which is where the real sexual inequities exist.
The author does not want to yield dominion over her body to the state or the church or the medical profession or any other institution. But it is clear that, behind it all, there is a terrible and blatant refusal to yield one’s body to the dominion of the Word of God. “Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.”Rom. 6:13. Where this is done, abortion is not a question for discussion, but an awful sin of murder against the Most High Majesty of God.
Resolution on Key ’73
The American Council of Christian Churches has recently passes a resolution on Key ’73 which is worth quoting. It appears in Christian News, and reads in part:
1. Key 73 permits and encourages each participant to “DO THEIR OWN THING” in evangelism. But the Bible plainly sets forth the fact that there is only one true gospel and that all who preach any other gospel are to be “accursed.”
2. Key 73 is encouraging the wide distribution of Bible translations and versions such as “GOOD NEWS FOR MODERN MAN,” “THE LIVING NEW TESTAMENT,” and the “REVISED STANDARD VERSION,” each one of which contains serious changes, omissions and additions to the text of God’s Holy and eternal Word.
3. Key 73 is definitely inclusive and ecumenical in character, making it ethically impossible to direct any converts into Bible-believing churches or to warn against the many false teachers and apostate churches which are a part of Key 73. The American Council of Christian Churches gladly reaffirms its belief in the one true gospel as “the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth” and we call upon all believers everywhere to proclaim this good news to every creature, while at the same time repudiating and exposing the many false teachers and apostate groups which are a part of the Key 73 evangelism program.