The 2014 Creating Change Conference was held in Houston, Texas on January 29 - February 2 and included several panels led by staff and fellows of Political Research Associates. The following is a summary of my portion of the panel titled “Beyond Bullying: Equally Excellent Education for All?”
LGBT students face challenges in our public school systems, but the current wave of school privatization efforts across the nation threaten to further exclude and stigmatize LGBT students and teachers.
State legislatures across the country have introduced and passed “private school choice” bills that allow for public funds to finance private school education. This includes school vouchers and various tax credit programs. Political Research Associates’ Public Eye magazine featured an extensive article in 2012 on the history and organization of the pro-privatization movement. One way to track the progress of the movement is through the annual update of the leading pro-privatization nonprofits – the tax affiliated partners Alliance for School Choice and the American Federation for Children. Their annual yearbook tracks their successes in promoting the public funding of private school education, much of which takes place in religious schools.
The impact of this privatization of public education on LGBT students and teachers is both immediate and long term. The immediate results is the public financing of private schools with exclusion policies that refuse admission to LGBT students. A report by the Southern Education Foundation, for example, documents at least 115 private schools in Georgia’s tax-funded scholarship program with “explicit, severe anti-gay policies.” This is not limited to Georgia or to the South. These exclusion policies can be found in private schools around the country receiving public funding through school choice programs.
The longterm impact includes the further stigmatization of LGBT students, staff, and teachers through the public funding of schools using curricula in which homosexuality is described as “evil.” For example, a teacher’s guide to one high school government textbook instructs teachers to instruct students that, “Homosexual unions must be opposed because God opposes them.”
Some of the most popular curricula series used in private religious schools across the nation, including A Beka Books and Bob Jones University Press, also teach young earth creationism, bigotry toward other religions, revisionist history and climate change denial. Recent reports are documenting the spread of this type of curricula in charter schools, which technically remain in the public education system although they are privately managed.
Scroll through the presentation below, or download the pdf.