Schools And Separation
Should the secular education in religious schools get funded by the “state?” It seems that if a new regulation passes in New York State, that is going to be the case.
Are public schools considered to be as the “state” and religious schools (e.g., Catholic schools and yeshivas) considered as “church” when it comes to the separation of church and state? The answer is that it depends on the circumstance; it’s often a gray area.
In the past, gray areas have become black or white only after legislative actions or regulatory decisions were made.
For example, the funds for the religious schools’ transportation come from the public schools’ (the state) budget. The rationale is the “religious schools” provide both religious and secular education to their students, and the religious education does not invalidate the services that are necessary for the secular education.
There’s a new regulation on the horizon to be decided in early October in connection with New York State’s private schools. If the new regulation is approved, it could affect the Catholic schools and yeshivas.
The new regulation would authorize the local authorities from nearby public-school districts (the state) to review non-public schools, including religious schools, (“church”) in their areas and determine if they are “at least substantially equivalent” to New York State’s standards. Should the local officials (“state”) judge a religious school (“church”) as “not substantially equivalent,” then the public officials (“state”) would work with the religious school (“church”) according to the regulation proposal.
If this regulation passes, the public schools (“state”) could administer the non-religious education of Catholic schools and yeshivas.
What would be the financial impacts if the public officials (“state”) are given so much authority to tell the religious schools to modify their methodologies of teaching their secular studies and take the corrective actions when they deem necessary?
For instance, they could fire those they deem to be bad teachers and hire those they deem to be good teachers.
What if those deemed to be good teachers would cost more? Effectively, the public official (“state”) would tell the religious schools (“church”) how to spend their money for their secular education. Then, the issue of teaching secular education in religious schools would no longer be considered as gray area and could not be barred by separation of church and state. If so, the “state” would be compelled to fund the religious schools for their secular education as they fund public schools.
Fred Bassali, Ph.D.