Florida Taxpayers Are Funding Charters Schools That Downplay Slavery and Deny Evolution

After learning of the questionable curricula in some Florida charter schools, education experts took a critical look at the teaching materials used by teachers. What they found is, at best, shocking — and at worst, the roots of a possible scandal.

Based on information in textbooks sourced from three Christian publishers, investigators found that students were being taught that humans lived alongside dinosaurs, that slavery wasn’t so bad if one had faith in Christ, that God intervened to prevent Catholics from dominating North America and many more curious “facts.”

The experts who examined these textbooks noted that they were filled with numerous egregious historical and factual errors. Before the Civil War broke out, one claims, “most black and white southerners had long lived together in harmony” and in reality the conflict was merely a struggle among power elites.

The textbooks’ authors rarely shied away from editorializing, too. In one odd instance, a section discusses the pitfalls of the Endangered Species Act – arguably one of the most important conservation laws ever passed — which was apparently designed as part of a “radical social agenda.”

Naturally, the textbooks include other popular evangelical talking points, like abortion, climate change, Native American genocide, the folly of Catholicism and more.

Perhaps just alarming as these blatant attempts at inculcating young minds into fundamentalist Christianity is the finding that students are left with very little academic challenge between these moralizing lessons. One third grade workbook, for example, featured an exercise in which students were instructed to correctly identify an illustration of an apple from two images — something that would hardly challenge a first grade student.

Private schools that teach from a faith-based curriculum are nothing new. However, these charter schools are not wholly privately funded. In fact, Florida taxpayers pay roughly $1 billion each year to prop up schools that teach from these fundamentalist Christian texts. By any measure, this is a blatant and gross violation of the First Amendment mandate that bars the government from giving any religion preferential treatment — or the “separation of church and state,” as it is somewhat erroneously known.

What’s truly worthy of attention is the creative way in which these charter schools have — so far — successfully managed to sidestep the First Amendment. Currently, it works as follows: A student from a public school applies for a scholarship from a private donor; the chosen recipient must then attend a Christian charter school. And the process is completely legal.

However, the rub comes thanks Florida tax law, which allows these private donors to then either deduct the amount spent on scholarships or even receive full reimbursement.

In other words, conservative Florida lawmakers have put together a circuitous system of funneling taxpayer dollars to private, fundamentally religious schools while providing a thin veneer of legality. From the tax code to the donors to the dolling out of scholarships, this is all quite deliberate. And this sort of scheme might be coming to your state soon, if it hasn’t already.

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has drawn heat for her pro-voucher agenda, which would effectively replicate what’s happening in Florida’s charter schools but on a larger, broader scale — all while cutting out the donor middleman. This is more-or-less already the case in 15 states.

Pro-voucher rhetoric is usually couched in refrains about the merits of giving families a choice, while lauding the advantages of the private sector. But this is mostly hot air; in truth, the pro-voucher agenda is one that aims to confuse and indoctrinate impressionable young minds into the conservative Christian fold as soon as possible. But this should come as no surprise, considering the pro-voucher crowd tends to also lament the lack of faith in public schools.

What would the individuals behind the Florida charter school scene say if, for example, fundamentalist Muslims were to follow suit? It seems doubtful such a scenario would ever be allowed to arise – and that says it all about the importance of religious separation in this country.

Photo Credit: Kimberly Farmer/Unsplash

46 comments

Marie W
Marie W4 days ago

Thanks for sharing

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Angela J
Angela J5 months ago

Thanks

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Amanda M
Amanda M6 months ago

This is why sectarian private schools and charter schools should NOT be receiving so much as a penny of taxpayer dollars! They propagate deliberate misinformation and outright LIES, brainwash children with a CHINO viewpoint, and neglect critical thought, accurate science and history, and respect for other cultures and religions. And people wonder why I homeschooled my kids for preschool-there's no pre-K in our town, and the only preschools are are CHURCH-RUN (conservative Methodist, Baptist, and Pentecostal-not exactly friendly to non-Christians with no desire to convert!). The only private schools in our county are all church-based as well-one of them is the Christian school that denied a student the right to walk across the stage with her classmates last year for getting pregnant, in case you guys didn't read about it (yes, there was an article about it here on Care2!). The truly sickening part is that THIS is what the Rethuglican Religious Reichy actually WANTS our education to consist of! BLARGH.

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Chrissie R
Chrissie R6 months ago

Thank you for posting.

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Winn A
Winn A6 months ago

Disgusting and Despicable

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Winn A
Winn A6 months ago

:-(

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D. W
Debbi W6 months ago

For the last few decades the republican party has been working on their program to __Dumb Down America__. We are seeing a generation of their success, people who were given a third world education but heavy on religion, very weak on science, heavy on racism, bigotry, fear and hate.

That is the education Betsy DeVos, Sec. Education, had and why she is pushing for the voucher program to replace public schools! What an example of an extremely expensive yet poor education. Her best class must have been in vacant smiles.

For the sake of our children, grandchildren and future generations, we must fight to keep our public shools.

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Karen H
Karen H6 months ago

I went to public high school. Several teachers said they could point out the kids who went to Catholic grade school and junior high because their education was sorely lacking.

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Mary B
Mary B6 months ago

The dumbing down of children has been going on for decades. Who do you think has been raising all these God Fearing Americans ? Does anybody remember the big up roar when the words One Nation under God was removed from the daily school pledge of alligence ? Is it still out ?

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Shirley S
Shirley S6 months ago

Noted

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