An excellent example local reporting that has gotten little national attention, Orlando Sentinel published an examination of LGBT discrimination at Christian schools whose students receive taxpayer-funded vouchers. “That means at least 14 percent of Florida’s nearly 147,000 scholarship students last year attended private schools where homosexuality was condemned or, at a minimum, unwelcome,” Leslie Postal and Annie Martin dryly note.
The Sentinel found 83 schools that refuse to admit LGBTQ students or could expel them if their sexual orientation or gender identity were discovered. Some also refuse to educate students whose parents are gay or to hire staff who are gay.
Another 73 schools call being gay or transgender a biblical sin but do not explain how those views play out in admissions or student discipline decisions.
Some of the private schools depend on the vouchers to cover tuition for nearly all their students.
At Worshipers’ House of Prayer Academy in Miami, for example, at least 112 of 130 students got a scholarship last year. The school’s website says it has “zero tolerance” for “homosexual activity” because God calls it “an abomination.”
As the Sentinel reported in its 2017 “Schools Without Rules” series, the private schools that take Florida scholarships operate largely free of state oversight, setting their own standards for teacher credentials, facilities and curriculum, which can fall short of the requirements the state imposes on its public schools.
The schools are also able to set their own admission standards, which could include rules about sexual orientation and gender identity as well as demands for church attendance and certain academic benchmarks, such as satisfactory test scores and good grades.
In the same week that the Supreme Court heard the Montana tax break case , I shudder at the likelihood John Roberts and His Furious Five will affirm a state’s right to pay for private educations using public funds, and the private school administrators have already set themselves up as victims pleading for Fourteenth Amendment protections; they should have the liberty to discriminate against LGBT students, they argue, despite accepting my tax dollars.
These developments represent a triumph for former governor Jeb Bush, whose laughable 2016 campaign for president has wiped the collective memory of his effort to privatize education in Florida — the state with the prettiest name!