We don't have a particular beef with Muslim religious schools, known as madrasas; we just didn't think our tax dollars would be used to fund them. For that matter, we didn't think our tax dollars would be directly paying for any religious indoctrination in any private school.
But that's the possible effect of the 2013 act that allows the state to distribute vouchers worth $4,200 per student to parents who wish to enroll their children in private and religious schools. This is the plan the state Supreme Court upheld last week by a 4-3 vote.
We suspect state lawmakers probably assumed that many of the vouchers would go to Christian-affiliated schools. We doubt they thought the money would be used at madrasas.
The liberal-leaning N.C. Policy Watch, however, took a look at the actual figures and found that the State Educational Assistance Authority, the agency that passes out vouchers, had issued 43 — one of the largest numbers to any single school — to the Greensboro Islamic Academy.
The school, operated by Guilford County's Islamic Center, includes "Islamic studies" and memorization of the Quran, the Muslim holy book, as part of its curriculum. Undoubtedly, the students have a little exposure to sharia law as well.
Another Muslim school, Al-Imam School of Raleigh, received 23 vouchers worth more than $86,000 in 2014-15, The (Raleigh) News & Observer reports.
Now, this doesn't mean that either of these schools are training terrorists or doing anything sinister. Quite the contrary: The parents who organized them seem to be good citizens.
But taxpaying citizens of North Carolina don't have to give them or any other private or religious school a blank check. Lawmakers and administrators can, and should, establish limits to the sorts of schools where vouchers can be cashed.
Obviously, these schools should obey the law. They should be required to administer the same standardized tests as public schools — and if students aren't regularly meeting the minimum standards, the vouchers should be cut off.
These schools ought also to meet certain standards of curriculum. Muslim schools, for example, should offer the same subjects to boys and girls. And Christian schools should at least expose students to mainstream science, not just the version of biology that fits their religious belief.
As the News & Record of Greensboro reported, many of the "fundamentalist Christian" schools that receive tax dollars teach the A Beka curriculum from Pensacola Christian College and Bob Jones University. In one section the A Beka website says: "Unlike the 'modern math' theorists, who believe that mathematics is a creation of man and thus arbitrary and relative, A Beka Book teaches that the laws of mathematics are a creation of God and thus absolute."
Is that what lawmakers consider a "sound education," as mandated by the state's constitution?
We are not against vouchers in principle. In fact, we have long supported education choices supported by a responsible voucher program. No one public or private school fits the needs of every single student. And we firmly believe students should not be trapped in underperforming schools because their parents can't afford what a private school can offer.
We do, however, expect to be able to know if our tax dollars are being well spent.
And that requires knowing that we are funding a complete education, not religious dogma.