Houston Public School Backs out of Deal with Religious Academy
Officials with the Houston Independent School District have suspended a plan to send some poor-performing students to a private religious school with taxpayer dollars, after the scheme drew fire from church-state separationists.
The school district had entered into discussions with Dr. Leon Spivey of Life Ministries Christian Academy, who had expressed an interest in accepting Houston public school students who fail to meet promotion standards. Spivey said he would create a new school for the students called Fifth Ward Preparatory Academy, which would be separate from his ministry and would comply with relevant state and federal laws.
Spivey, however, refused to say exactly where the new school would operate, leading some critics to believe he intended to simply enroll the public school students in his religious academy at taxpayer expense. This raised concerns among church-state separationists.
On Sept. 28, Americans United Litigation Counsel Ayesha Khan wrote to Dr. Rod Paige, superintendent of the Houston Independent School District, and Board President Laurie Bricker, warning them that the proposal was "rife with constitutional pitfalls."
Observed Khan, "My understanding is that Fifth Ward Preparatory Academy will be located in the same building as the pre-existing Life Ministries Christian Academy, and that both academies will be operated by the same person(s). …