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NOLA.com: Although charter schools continue to dwarf vouchers in terms of overall growth, voucher programs have rebounded on the national political and educational scene in the past year. In 2011, more than 30 states introduced bills that would use taxpayer dollars to send children to privately run schools, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. That’s up more than 300% from the previous year, when only nine voucher bills were introduced.
Washington Post: A judge upheld Indiana’s school voucher law on Friday, rejecting opponents’ arguments that the largest such program in the nation unconstitutionally uses public money to support religion. | Meredith v. Daniels (Ind. Super. Ct. (Marion Co.) Jan. 13, 2012)
Mcall.com: Preliminary state audit report finds Pocono Mountain Charter School had ‘improper entanglements’ with Tobyhanna church.
American Federation for Children: Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell yesterday announced an expansive education reform agenda for the 2012 legislative session that is poised to significantly expand educational options through creation of a scholarship tax credit program for the state’s low-income families.
One News Now: “The mere fact that a classical text is religious does not mean it has no educational value,” contends ADF attorney David Cortman. “In fact, the Supreme Court itself has clearly acknowledged this, and that’s why it should hear the case.” . . . “It’s ridiculous that a historical, religious text that has been studied as part of Western civilization for centuries is somehow automatically off-limits,” the attorney argues. “When government officials ban the objective study of all religious texts, including the most important literary works of all times, it only contributes to the further dumbing down of government-run education.”
Education News: Parent organizers from San Diego and Lynwood on Wednesday rallied against what they called inaccurate and misleading union dispatches to teachers on the controversial parent trigger law, which allows parents at low-performing schools to force their campus to convert to a charter and hire new teachers, or change its administration.
Religion Clause: The Orange County Register last month, in an editorial, reported on a lawsuit filed on Dec. 9 against the Compton (CA Unified School District challenging its two denials of a charter school application filed by a Christian minister.
Idaho Press-Tribune (12/29): It’s generally accepted that federal law trumps state law. So the Alliance Defense Fund, which has taken up the case on behalf of NCA, has legitimate reason to believe it has a valid argument. But if the U.S. Supreme Court doesn’t agree to hear the case, it doesn’t matter how strong it is. The odds aren’t very good. But it would benefit Idaho greatly if it does happen.
WorldNetDaily: Michael Donnelly, director of international relations at Home School Legal Defense Association, says this decision offers a glimmer of light in the case. “I am hopeful that this is the beginning of the end to the horrific treatment these people have suffered at the hands of Swedish authorities over the past two and a half years,” he said. “The Johansson family have endured unspeakable tyranny over their decision to homeschool their child and then to attempt to leave Sweden. Sweden’s behavior in this case has been shocking.” His organization and representatives of the Alliance Defense Fund are pursuing a case over the custody battle before the European Court of Human Rights
Idaho Press-Tribune: Alliance Defense Fund attorneys filed a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court Wednesday that asks the court to weigh in on the now-defunct Nampa Classical Academy’s lawsuit against Idaho state officials for prohibiting the use of the Bible in the school’s curriculum.
Idaho Press-Tribune (AP): “If the commission’s misinterpretation of state law is allowed to stand, all Idaho public school and university students will be subject to the ban,” the Alliance Defense Fund said in a statement issued Wednesday.
ADF asks U.S. Supreme Court to end Idaho censorship of all religious, classical texts in public schools
ADF Attorney Benjamin Bull at Townhall : All Domenic Johansson really wants for Christmas is his life back . . . In this season, as so many of us are thinking – as we should – of the children who don’t have toys or a turkey for Christmas, let us also remember those children who long not just for something to eat or play with, but for the freedom to honor the deepest convictions of their souls.
Sunshine State News: Attorney General Pam Bondi has resubmitted ballot language a week after a Leon County judge agreed with critics that the wording of the “Religious Freedom” amendment was too “ambiguous.” The revised ballot summary for Amendment 7 on the November 2012 ballot adopts suggestions from Leon County Circuit Judge Terry Lewis, the attorney general’s office stated in a release.
Education News: Hawaii’s Charter School Review Panel has “misinterpreted state law and minimized its role in the system’s accountability structure”, says an audit of the state’s charter school system, writes Katherine Poythress at Honolulu Civil Beat.
HSLDA : Christer and Annie Johansson have won a small but hopeful victory in their quest to regain custody of their nine-year-old son Domenic who was taken from them over 2 years ago in a dramatic raid while the family was seated on an airliner departing the Nordic country. Ruby Harrold-Claesson, the couple’s attorney, reported to HSLDA that the Gotland District Court ruled in favor of the Johanssons, allowing them to retain their parental rights of Domenic . . . HSLDA continues to work with the Alliance Defense Fund and Harrold-Claesson at the European Court of Human Rights representing the family in their lawsuit against Sweden.
HSLDA: On Tuesday, December 13, the U.S. Senate’s Subcommittee on Children and Families held a hearing on S. 1877, a bill to require all adults to be mandatory reporters of child abuse and neglect. HSLDA believes that this bill will create a police-state reporting environment that will lead to baseless investigations of innocent families, and actually hurt at-risk children. HSLDA opposes S. 1877.
OneNewsNow.com: A religious freedom ballot issue is slowly moving forward in Florida. Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel explains that the Florida constitutional amendment is opposed by the American Civil Liberties Union and teachers unions because it could lead to school vouchers allowing parents to send their children to religious and private schools.
A Florida judge has removed a constitutional amendment from the 2012 election ballot that would have deleted the state’s ban on using taxpayer money “in aid of any church, sect, or religious denomination or in aid of any sectarian institution.”
Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice: This year, the New Mexico state legislature considered legislation to offer individuals and corporations tax credits for donating to nonprofits that distribute private school scholarships. That idea, also promoted by Gov. Susana Martinez, was supported by 62 percent of surveyed voters in New Mexico.
HSLDA: New truancy enforcement laws have sparked criminal charges against several homeschool families in Nebraska. A Dawson County Sheriff’s deputy actually threatened to remove one family’s children unless they enrolled them in public school.
Federation for Children: “We vote you in!” “We’ll vote you out!” The chant was at first a bit difficult to hear, but after a few refrains—and a steady increase in volume—the message to the men and women working in the building in front of the crowd couldn’t be denied.
Wisconsin State Journal: First it was the ACLU, then the unions. Now the Madison-based Freedom from Religion Foundation is joining the list of organizations speaking out against Madison Preparatory Academy.
Freedom from Religion Foundation: A new Madison, Wis., public charter school set to operate in a former church has drawn the attention of the Freedom From Religion Foundation. FFRF is also asking for a review of why the property has maintained tax-exempt status while it’s been vacant and not being used for worship services.
Russ Cochran at Memoria Press: Recently, Rush Limbaugh tied his whole brain, not just half of it, behind his back. In the process he ended up sounding a whole lot like the cultural barbarians he claims to be fighting.
San Jose Mercury News: An appellate court this week refused to hear the Los Altos School District’s case against Bullis Charter School, setting up either a possible showdown in the California Supreme Court or an end to the long-running legal dispute. For Bullis officials, Monday’s court outcome was an affirmation that the school district had discriminated against it by failing to provide adequate facilities as required by state law.
Bishop Braxton on Belleville Diocese’s Catholic Charities: Time to reassess dependence on government funding, implications for school choice
NCRegister.com: Bishop Braxton has concluded that it’s time for U.S. Church leaders to reassess their dependence on government funds: “While many Catholics still advocate for government-funded vouchers to cover tuition at parochial schools, I am wondering if this even remains an option, when government funds comes with strings attached.”
Louisiana Federation for Children: The Louisiana Federation for Children (LFC) today celebrated the bipartisan victories of numerous school choice supporters to the Louisiana Legislature and state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) during the Saturday, Nov. 19, statewide general elections.
NCPA Policy Digest: Over the last decade, the expansion of school voucher programs, which let some students use taxpayer dollars to pay tuition at private schools of their choice, slowed considerably. Losses in statewide referenda and in state Supreme Courts made vouchers an even tougher political sell than they had been in the past. However, this trend took a drastic reversal in 2011. . .
Baptist Press: “The government shouldn’t abduct and imprison children simply because it doesn’t like homeschooling,” ADF legal counsel Roger Kiska said. “That’s bad enough. But now the state is going even further by attempting to get the parents out of the way altogether. This simply cannot stand.”
Federation for Children: The Georgia Department of Revenue this week approved $50 million in donations to provide scholarships to students to attend private schools under the Georgia Scholarship Tax Credit Program.
Group criticizes Ark agency for not specifying rules for grant to school that teaches religion | The Republic (AP)
The Republic (AP): Harris, R-West Fork, has said he thought religious displays are permitted if paid for with private money. Harris said he met Tuesday with a lawyer from the Arizona-based Alliance Defense Fund, which works to preserve religious freedom. The attorney is planning to meet with state officials, Harris said
Religion Clause: Following up on a complaint last week by Americans United, the Arkansas Department of Human Services says it will change its inspection checklist for pre-kindergarten schools funded under the Arkansas Better Chance (ABC) program to assure compliance with church-state restrictions.
HSLDA: Local and state education officials have threatened to take the Dudek family’s children to school by brute force, according to a letter to parents Jürgen and Rosemarie Dudek obtained by HSLDA. The letter from Hesse Regional School Office Director Anita Hoffman says that among the remedies the state may use against the family is to “take custody of the children from the parents” or to “transport the children to school by force.”
NYTimes.com: The pastoral mood in the hills of Tennessee offered a stark contrast to the storm raging around the country over the Pearls’ teachings on child discipline, which advocate systematic use of “the rod” to teach toddlers to submit to authority. The methods, seen as common sense by some grateful parents and as horrific by others, are modeled, Mr. Pearl is fond of saying, on “the same principles the Amish use to train their stubborn mules.”
Chesterton Tribune: Students from 182 of Indiana’s public school districts have moved to private schools under the state’s new education voucher program, although only seven districts lost more than 100 kids. In all, 3,919 students . . .
Arkansas News: Two Arkansas state legislators who own state-funded preschools say their schools include religious instruction in the curriculum but are not violating any state or federal law by doing so.
Ark. agency investigating whether legislator’s state funds promote religion at his preschool | The Republic
The Republic (AP): Harris said the Alliance Defense Fund, a nonprofit Christian advocacy group based in Scottsdale, Ariz., that handles cases related to the First Amendment’s freedom of religious exercise clause, will represent Growing God’s Kingdom if the school needs legal counsel.
Federation for Children: Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker today signed legislation that reaffirms Wisconsin’s commitment to providing quality educational options to low-income students by enacting legislation that clarifies school choice language included in the state’s 2011-13 budget and increases accountability in the Milwaukee and Racine Parental Choice Programs.
Federation for Children: The Indiana Department of Education (DOE) announced that the state’s new voucher program approved nearly 4,000 students for participation in 2011-12, making the Choice Scholarship Program the biggest first-year voucher program ever.
NCPA Policy Digest: While Texas has made some strides in school choice over the last decade, there are many changes the state could make to enhance school choice for Texans.
Education News: The passed six bills Thursday that give parents more options for their children’s education, including one that lifts restrictions on the number of cyber charter schools that can open and the number of students that can enroll in them.
The Boston Globe: Federal civil rights attorneys have launched an investigation into whether the state is discriminating against students with limited English fluency by allegedly failing to ensure that new charter schools are equipped to educate the students.
MiamiHerald.com: The school district is withholding more than $185,000 from the Academy of Arts & Minds charter school in Coconut Grove because the school has failed to provide some services for children with special needs — a violation of state and federal law. Last month, the school, which has 460 students, was also slapped for illegally charging fees to students for basic classes.
Federation for Childre: he Pennsylvania State Senate today took a significant step towards expanding educational options to low-income children and kids in failing schools, passing legislation that would create a new voucher program and increase funding for the state’s existing scholarship tax credit program.
Catholic Culture: Cardinal Joseph Zen has embarked on a 3-day fast to protest legislation that he sees as a bid by the Chinese government to seize control of Catholic schools in Hong Kong.
AFC: The American Federation for Children (AFC) today called on the Pennsylvania State Senate to immediately pass legislation that would create the state’s first school voucher program for children in failing schools and significantly expand the Keystone State’s highly-successful Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) Program.
Federation for Children: Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett today announced a sweeping education reform package that would create an expansive voucher program for low-income families stuck in failing schools, ensure strict accountability standards for charter schools, and increase eligibility for the state’s highly-successful Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) program.
Kare11.com: The ACLU of Minnesota released hundreds of documents Monday from its ongoing lawsuit against an Inver Grove Heights charter school, based on the legal claim that school used taxpayer money to promote Islam.
NCRegister.com: As Gregory Baylor, a senior counsel with the Alliance Defense Fund, stated with regard to the case, “When a government enables parents to make meaningful choices about the education their children receive, it advances rather than undermines religious freedom because government no longer channels virtually all children into a system with philosophical presuppositions that many parents reject. This is both good for freedom and for children.” . . . Yet, amazingly, the court found that what is called “the balance of equities” favored stopping the program now, before a full trial, because of the “significant injury” continuing the program would cause the plaintiffs. This, however, elevates form over substance. The “plaintiffs” are not harmed by allowing other children to attend other schools.
The Chillicothe Gazette | chillicothegazette.com: Ohio House Bill 136, which was approved Sept. 22 by the House’s Education Committee, would expand the state’s private school voucher program to any student in any district whose family makes less than $95,000.
Michael Flaherty at WSJ.com: In case you needed further proof of the American education system’s failings, especially in poor and minority communities, consider the latest crime to spread across the country: educational theft. That’s the charge that has landed several parents, such as Ohio’s Kelley Williams-Bolar, in jail this year.
OneNewsNow.com: Utah is considering a revolutionary approach to school funding by taking school choice to the next level of “class choice.”
News: Special Interests Sue to Remove Arizona Children with Special Needs From Private Schools: The Arizona Education Association (AEA) and the Arizona School Boards Association (ASBA) today filed yet another lawsuit to remove children with special needs from the private schools of their parents’ choice.
Boise Weekly: The article mentions that Moffett is suing the board over the revocation of the charter. His lawyer is David Cortman of the Alliance Defense Fund, a group that defends so-called “Christian” causes “One of our claims in the case is, the closing down of the school, under the alleged guise of financial reasons, is a reaction to the teaching of religious books,” said Cortman.
John Stossel at Townhall: Those kids attend one of those new charter schools. Charters let them escape the bureaucracy of regular schools, including, often, teachers union rules. These schools compete for kids because parents can always choose another school. That makes them better. Not every charter school is good, but the beauty of competition is that bad ones go out of business, while good ones expand.
Greg Baylor at Townhall : In March 2011, the school board in Douglas County, Colo., voted 7-0 to implement a school voucher program. It was designed to provide concerned parents with 75 percent of the education money provided by the state for their children if the parents preferred to send their children to the private school of their choice.
Education News: The Chicken Licken child’s book depicts a fearful and ill-informed chick running around screaming hysterically, “the sky is falling, the sky is falling,” but discovers instead the sky is the limit. Similarly, teacher’s unions are attempting to create hysteria about Charter schools. Unions are ignoring key issues while blocking meaningful education reform.
Fox News: “I suspect the Supreme Court is going to eventually write the final book of this case,” David Cortman predicted as he too walked across the abandoned field that was once Nampa Classical. Cortman is from The Alliance Defense Fund, an Arizona-based group that defends Christian causes. “The Supreme Court of the United States has held for decades now,” he explained, “that it is Constitutionally permissible to objectively teach the Bible in public schools for history or comparative literature.”
Christian Newswire: A judge dismissed the case against a homeschool family in southern Spain that was facing a possible order to send their son back to school. “This is an important victory for the González family and homeschoolers in Spain,” said Michael Donnelly, Director of International Relations at the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA).
Rod Dreher at The American Conservative: [T]his phenomenon underlines a key aspect of the change taking place in America’s schools. The public schools are not going to be replaced by a single alternative system; new forms of education are going to appear.
ADF Attorney Greg Baylor at The Speak Up Movement University Blog: I am scheduled to debate Professor Richard B. Collins at the University of Colorado School of Law in Boulder this Thursday, September 15, 2011, at 12:00 noon.
HSLDA: The González family, who reside near Alicante, Spain, were giving thanks to God and to HSLDA after a judge dismissed their case this week. The family were facing a possible order to send their child back to school after prosecutors brought the case over homeschooling. HSLDA filed a brief and spearheaded an international petition for the family.
The Globe and Mail: A new study, published in the Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science, found that students between age five and 10 who were home-schooled with a structured curriculum surpassed the public school peers on standardized tests.
Bluegrass Policy Blog: : Folks in Tennessee are not happy with the restrictive way they set up approval authority for their charter schools. Right now, the only approval authority is the local school board in each district. This new Commercial Appeal (Memphis) article says that is stifling the creation of more of these dynamic, and successful, public schools. Basically, local school boards often act to preserve their business as usual turf instead of doing what is best for students.
Religion Clause: Indiana University’s Center for Evaluation and Education Policy last week released a report evaluating three Indiana school choice provisions: Choice Scholarships, School Expenditure Deductions, and the School Scholarship Tax Credit. The 20-page report, School Choice Issues in Indiana: Sifting through the Rhetoric . . .
Religion Clause: Oklahoma School Districts Sue To Challenge Voucher Program: Yesterday’s Tulsa World reports that two Oklahoma school districts have filed suit in state court to challenge the constitutionality of Oklahoma’s Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarships for Students with Disabilities Act, as amended.
OneNewsNow.com: “The mere fact that a classical text is religious doesn’t mean that it has no educational value,” contends ADF’s David Cortman. “The Supreme Court itself has clearly acknowledged this. It’s ridiculous that a historical religious text that has been studied as part of Western civilization for hundreds or even thousands of years is somehow automatically off limits.”
The Republic: Officials from a former charter school in Nampa are asking a full panel of federal appeals court judges to reconsider an earlier ruling that dismissed the school’s lawsuit against Idaho.
OneNewsNow.com: Kate Casas says the state is ignoring the provision of the 1993 Outstanding Schools Act, which requires that each district’s board of education provides tuition and transportation for students who want to transfer from schools that lose their accreditation.
ADF appeals 9th Circuit ruling that upheld Idaho ban on all religious,