DOE bigotry? Pinellas providers say no
If the Department of Education has an anti-religious bias - as a North Florida woman with a high-profile lawyer says in a recently filed lawsuit (see story here and previous blog posts here) - two faith-based providers in Clearwater say they never got a whiff of it. Both New Growth Community Development Corp. and United Methodist Cooperative Ministries have been awarded grants by DOE in recent years – and officials at both give kudos to DOE. “I can truly say I have not had any problems," Pastor Norman Pearson, who directs New Growth, told The Gradebook. “For us, it’s been a very positive experience,” said Donna Ratzlaff, executive director of the Methodist outfit.
Like Read & Lead, the company at the center of the DOE lawsuit, both New Growth and United Methodist Cooperative Ministries use church facilities for their grant missions – helping people get GEDs and teaching English to immigrants, respectively. But neither has had major problems getting paid by DOE. “When I send something in and it’s not right, they give me a call, we discuss it and I correct it,” Pearson said. Sometimes, DOE checks seem to take a tad long in arriving, Ratzlaff said, but she didn’t think that problem was limited to faith-based providers. “I feel they do their best to stay on top of it,” she said.
It’s not clear how many faith-based groups have received grants through DOE or how many have applied. The department does not classify grant applicants and recipients that way, and on a list of 278 private/non-profits that received grants in 2006-07, only a handful, like United Methodist Cooperative Ministries, are obviously faith-based, given their names. The Read & Lead lawsuit maintains DOE employees “were aware at all material times that Read & Lead was a faith-based entity which had been awarded this project under a formal governmental policy initiative to promote faith and community based participation in achieving state educational goals.”
- Ron Matus, state education reporter