The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that publicly funded school vouchers are constitutional, even when they ultimately subsidize a religious education.
It was the first time in the nation's history the high court had approved such sweeping public aid for a religious purpose. The Supreme Court overruled a case involving a school voucher pilot program in Cleveland that a lower court had declared unconstitutional.
Chief Justice William Rehnquist said, "The Ohio program is entirely neutral with respect to religion, because it allows a choice between private and public, religious and secular and the program is therefore a program of true private choice."
Justice John Paul Stevens asked rhetorically, "Is a law that authorizes the use of public funds to pay for the indoctrination of thousands of grammar school children in particular religious faiths a 'law respecting an establishment of religion' within the meaning of the First Amendment?"
"Now that the constitutional question is settled, the question is, does it work?" asked Paul E. Peterson, director of the Kennedy School's Program on Education Policy and Governance at Harvard who has studied several school voucher programs.
Peterson said: "Private schools have less disorder, class size is smaller, there is more homework, there is better communication with parents and we found test scores for black kids, after three years, go up three to four grade levels."
According to Peterson, black kids in central cities need a more ordered school situation; it works for them -- it just doesn't happen in public schools.
-- Will school voucher programs result in the indoctrination of thousands of grammar school children?
-- Will it matter to parents if their child improves by several grade levels?
(Thanks to UPI Legal Affairs Correspondent Michael Kirkland)
DOES MEDIA OWNERSHIP MATTER?
One of the best-kept secrets is the degree to which a handful of huge corporations control the flow of information in the United States, writes Rep. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., in the Dallas-Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
"Whether it is television, radio, newspapers, magazines, books or the Internet, a few giant conglomerates are determining what we see, hear and read and it's likely to get worse," he said.
According to Sanders every major network is owned by a huge conglomerate that has enormous conflicts of interest:
-- Fox News Channel is owned by Rupert Murdoch, a right-wing Australian who already owns a significant portion of the world's media and has close ties to the Republican Party.
-- NBC is owned by General Electric -- one of the largest corporations in the world and with a long history of anti-union activity. GE has substantial financial interests in weapons manufacturing, finance, nuclear power and many other industries.
-- ABC is owned by the Walt Disney Co., which produces toys and products in developing countries where workers are provided with poor wages and working conditions.
-- CBS is owned by Viacom, which owns MTV, Showtime, Nickelodeon, VH1, TNN, CMT, 39 broadcast television stations, 184 radio stations, Paramount Pictures and Blockbuster Inc.
Sanders said the essential problem with television is not just a right-wing bias in news and programming, or the transformation of politics and government into entertainment and sensationalism. Nor is it just the constant bombardment of advertising, much of it directed at children.
"There's a lot of television promoting greed and self-interest, but how many programs speak to the 'justice' of the richest 1 percent's owning more wealth than the bottom 95 percent? Or of the chief executive officers of major corporations earning 500 times what their employees make?" Sanders asked.
The congressman said the most important issues facing the middle-class and working people rarely are discussed on television and the average American does not see his or her reality reflected on the television screen.
-- Do mega-corporations that own network television influence how and what their news divisions cover?
-- Sanders said there are many programs on how to make money in the stock market but none on "how to form a union." Should there be? Would you watch?
GIVING AID TO ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS
The chief U.S. Border Patrol agent said the government has a responsibility to protect Mexican citizens who are illegally crossing into the United States, The Washington Times reports.
Speaking at a forum at the 73rd annual convention of the League of United Latin American Citizens, David V. Aguilar said the recent deaths of illegal migrants in Arizona presented a "challenge" to both the Immigration and Naturalization Service and its Border Patrol.
"There are 17 water stations placed out there by well-meaning individuals and humanitarian organizations," Aguilar said, referring to water tanks placed by pro-immigration and religious groups in remote areas of the desert south of Tucson. He added that is all the water there is for the entire range and the temperature in the summer reaches 140 degrees.
"We have had 350 rescues since March and our mission is to control the border and with it the obligation to protect lives," he told the newspaper.
The Mexican government said 1,980 persons have perished since 1995 while crossing in that region; U.S. figures show 1,370 have died in that time period.
-- Some argue the primary mission of the Border Patrol is not to provide humanitarian assistance to illegal aliens but to police the U.S.-Mexico border. Should they provide aid?
-- Is an illegal alien responsible for himself?
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