Gadfly has been called a lot of things, but never a prophet--until now. It was a mere four years ago that we asked, "Why not religious charter schools?" The world's three great monotheistic religions heard us. Today, there's the Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy in suburban Minneapolis, where the curriculum emphasizes "Muslim culture and the Arabic language." There's the Ben Gamla Charter School in Hollywood, Florida, with "kosher food in the cafeteria and Hebrew posters in the classrooms." And now there's the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., which is considering converting eight of its inner-city Catholic schools to charter schools. Of course, none of these providers is constructing explicitly religious institutions. The not-exactly-Catholic charter schools, for example, would "still have strong values, but the schools' names would change and specific religious references would be stripped from the curriculum," according to the Washington Post. This might help the schools avoid unwanted entanglements with the First Amendment. Maybe it would be better still if they could remain religious--and still go charter--so long as their students pass tests of reading, math, history, and science--and so long, of course, as parents are free to choose or not choose them.
"8 D.C. Catholic Schools Eyed for Charters," by Theola Labbe and Jacqueline L. Salmon, Washington Post, September 8, 2007
"Chartering a New Course," by Nathaniel Popper, Wall Street Journal, August 31, 2007