By Priscilla Pardini
As Rethinking Schools recently discovered, even getting in the door to informally observe and report on a typical school day in a religious school participating in the voucher program can be close to impossible.
In a series of calls to 11 such schools, a reporter for Rethinking Schools was given any number of reasons why such a visit was out of the question. Several principals said they and their teachers were simply too busy to accommodate a reporter. Others said a visit would be too disruptive. Still others - including three Catholic school principals - said they could not agree to such a request without approval from higher-level church officials. One school never returned phone calls from a reporter.
In the end, Parklawn Christian School, 3725 N. Sherman Blvd., was the only one of the 11 schools that agreed to a reporter's request for a tour. Rev. Larry Orr, Parklawn principal, said the decision was made against the advice of Daniel McKinley, executive director of Partners Advancing Values in Education, a private scholarship program for voucher students. "But we thought if you visited, your story might show people what a good job we're doing," Orr said. "We don't have anything to hide."
There are 91 schools in the Milwau-kee voucher program, serving 8,100 students. While it is impossible to draw any conclusions from one visit to one school, what follows is a snapshot of school life at one religious school receiving public vouchers in Milwaukee.