Loading
Voucher movement gains traction as new school year kicks off
Credit Kathy Cassidy (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)
Credit Kathy Cassidy (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)
Facebook Twitter Google+ Pinterest Addthis

.- As U.S. Catholic schools gear up for a new academic year, some have seen a spike in enrollment due to more states offering school voucher programs.

“The school choice movement has picked up during this last year and it's gained a lot of momentum,” Sr. Dale McDonald, director of Public Policy and Educational Research at the National Catholic Educational Association, told CNA in an Aug. 30 interview.

As of August 2011, 18 states as well as the District of Columbia have enacted policies that support school vouchers.

“School choice should be promoted because parents are the primary educators of their children and should have the right to choose the best school,” Sr. Dale stressed.

Although some parents have the means to send their children to their preferred school, “others are denied that choice because of their economic situation,” she pointed out.

“We've always felt that parents of low and modest income should have the kind of choices that parents of higher income have for their children.”

Sr. Dale's remarks come just months after Speaker of the House John Boehner (R–Ohio) showed his support for Catholic education and school choice.

During the week of the State of the Union Address on Jan. 26, he announced the introduction of a bill that restored funding for school vouchers in Washington, D.C. 

Although the D.C. program first received authorization in 2004 – and enabled 1,700 children to attend private schools – President Obama defunded the program in 2009.

Speaker Boehner's efforts, which included meeting personally with several Catholic education officials, were seen “not only a symbolic commitment to choice but something that was very much in demand by the parents here in D.C.,” Sr. Dale recalled.

She noted that the D.C. program set an example which other states are beginning to follow.

In April, the Indiana Legislature provided vouchers that allow low-and middle-income families to use public funds to help pay private school tuition.

The Indiana program, which is only the second statewide program in country, has enabled 240 religious schools, mostly Catholic, to enroll students with vouchers.

“The Indiana voucher program is a big one this year,” Sr. Dale said. “It's a victory that we're happy to promote.”

A victory, however, that may be short lived.

Opponents of the program recently filed a lawsuit claiming it violates the Indiana constitution's required separation of church and state, given that most of the non-public schools so far approved for the voucher program have religious affiliations.

Other states have encountered similar obstacles.

In Colorado, Denver judge Michael Martinez ordered the state’s Douglas County to immediately stop its scholarship program on Aug. 12. Judge Martinez similarly ruled that the initiative violates provisions in the state's constitution.

“I think it's a weak argument,” Sr. Dale said in response to the claim that vouchers threaten to blur the line between church and state.

“If the scholarship is given to the parents and the parents make the choice about where to go to school, then the government hasn't made the choice – it's provided parents with a check to make the choice.”

Sr. Dale likened vouchers to Medicare or other government assistance.

“When you're given a Medicare check or a Social Security check, you can spend it however you want it,” she said. “If I take my Social Security check and decide to give it all to the Church, nobody questions it – this is the same thing.”

“This is giving parents the money to make the choice,” she underscored. “Not all of these vouchers are used for religious schools. Some are independent or private schools.”

Sr. Dale said that an improved understanding of how vouchers actually work will eventually show individuals that “constitutionally, school choice can be supported.”

Ads by AdsLiveMedia(What's this?)

* The number of messages that can be online is limited. CNA reserves the right to edit messages for content and tone. Comments and opinions expressed by users do not necessarily reflect the opinions or beliefs of CNA. CNA will not publish comments with abusive language, insults or links to other pages

RESOURCES »

Ads by Google (What's this?)
Ads by Google

Featured Videos

Little Sisters of the Poor press conference in Denver
Little Sisters of the Poor press conference in Denver
Family thrilled to see Pope Francis in Istanbul
Syrian Refugee, Sara, 14, Before Meeting Pope
Ebola orphans thousands of children in West Africa
One year after Haiyan: Philippines rebuilds homes, lives
An Indian contribution to the Vatican's Synod on the Family
Christ Cathedral CNA video Sept 2014
Alejandro Bermudez of CNA accepts ice bucket challenge
'The Real Albania,' remembering those who fled
Pope Francis in Albania, "one of the most important visits of the post-communist era in Albania"
Pope Francis greets paralyzed man who risked all to see him
Franciscans on the banks of the Tiber in Rome, working for the New Evangelization
Pilgrimage from Czech Republic to Assisi and Rome for intentions
Testimony of young Indian who met Pope in Korea
Preparations of the Closing Mass of 6th Asian Youth Day
Missionary of Charity, Korea
Testimony of Christian Love during Pope's Visit to Korea
Religious Sisters in South Korea react to Pope Francis kissing a baby
Warm atmosphere during Holy Mass at Daejeon World Cup Stadium
Images inside Pope Francis flight to South Korea
Dec
19

Liturgical Calendar

December 19, 2014

Advent Weekday

All readings:
Today »
This year »

Catholic Daily

Gospel of the Day

Mt 21:23-27

Gospel
Date
12/15/14
12/14/14
12/13/14

Daily Readings


First Reading:: Judg 13: 2-7, 24-25A
Gospel:: Lk 1: 5-25

Saint of the Day

St. Romuald »

Saint
Date
12/15/14

Homily of the Day

Mt 21:23-27

Homily
Date
12/15/14
12/14/14
12/13/14