Friday, April 15, 2005

READER RESPONSE -- More Kelley inconsistency

Posted by Craig Westover | 11:04 AM |  

David Downing of Downingworld wonders if I see any inconsistencies or irony in Sen. Steve Kelley's remarks reported in today's Pioneer Press.

A Kelley-sponsored proposal would enable public, private or charter schools with 20 percent of students needing religious-based diets to apply for a portion of $60,000 in state funding to pay for the extra costs of providing special meals. Committee discussion focused on the question whether funding special diets that are part of religious teachings is in effect funding of not only the diet but the religious teaching.

"The money is not going for religious instruction; it's going to nutrition," said the bill's chief author, Sen. Steve Kelley, DFL-Hopkins, in response to questions about the constitutionality of a program that sends public dollars to religious institutions. He noted the state already subsidizes textbook purchases and school bus transportation for private schools.

This from the guy that calls the Hann/Buesgens school voucher legislation "money laundering" and dismisses the very same arguments when it comes to parent-directed vouchers and school choice. Inconsistency? On the issue, you bet. But if you look at motivation, Kelley is as consistent as ever.

A voucher program in which parents make decisions about where education funds are spent reduces the power of Kelley and the education establishment. Funding school lunches at the state level keeps schools -- public, charter AND private -- more entangled to and beholden to the state, not mention a little more power for Senator Kelley.

[As an aside and a long overdue comment from the House Education Policy and Reform committee meeting that tabled the Buesgens version of the voucher legislation are comments from Rep. Carlos Mariani.

Speaking on behalf of an amendment to the Buesgens bill (which would have put financial obligations on private schools accepting vouchers that would have effectively killed the legislation), Rep. Mariani argued that even if state money via vouchers didn't go directly to religious teaching, it enabled religious schools to divert money from other sources to other areas including religious teaching -- much like the school lunch money proposal Kelley is now proposing.

Had he stopped there, Mariani had a point,
albeit constitutionally irrelevant, but nonetheless a debatable point. However, he carried his argument one step further by noting that in addition to freeing funds for religious teaching some voucher money might free funds that could be used to cover the legal liabilities of some denominations -- a not-so-subtle implication that voucher money in essence would somehow be state support child molesters. As a non-Catholic that has laughed at just about every "A priest, a rabbi and a minister walk into a bar" joke ever told, I found Mariani's remark highly offensive.]