Education Department shows grace to schools on prayer issue
Under the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, all schools in the country had until Tax Day to certify that they follow guidelines protecting prayer and other religious activities.
But the Associated Press reports that initial responses showed "dozens of schools out of compliance." More specifically, 150 to 200 school districts in five states (Arizona, California, Ohio, Illinois, and New York) don't comply with the federal guidelines. Three states and the District of Columbia haven't filed compliance reports.
"But leaders in those states say paperwork problems, not trouble over prayer policies, accounted for the delay," says AP education writer Ben Feller.
"None of them are saying, 'Look, we're not going to comply.' There hasn't been anything that would indicate some sort of opposition view," said Larry Jaurequi, assistant superintendent in the California education department, which has 55 schools out of compliance—down from 133 on April 15.
This could have been extremely bad news for the noncompliant schools and states—the act says noncompliant schools can lose federal funding. But since this is the law's first year in effect, the U.S. Department of Education isn't going too hard on anyone.
"We're not at the point where we're talking about taking funding away from schools or states," Education Department spokeswoman Susan Aspey told the AP. "The goal all along has been to make sure local school districts do not have any policies in place that sanction religion—or policies that prohibit voluntary religious expression by students."
But Matt Staver, president of Liberty Counsel (which brings many religious freedom lawsuits against schools) says there's deeper problems than ...1
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