Washington D.C., Jan 27, 2020 / 17:00 pm
Political leaders have come out in support of School Choice Week, as the Supreme Court considers a crucial case on the right of parents to public assistance if they choose religious schools.
National School Choice Week is Jan. 26 through Feb. 1. “School choice” is a policy to provide families, particularly low-income families, the option of using public funds such as tax credits, public scholarships or vouchers, to help pay for the cost of sending their children to private schools or charter schools.
The U.S. bishops’ conference has promoted school choice over the years, in line with Church teaching that parents are the primary educators of their children.
The chair of the U.S. bishops’ education committee, Bishop Michael Barber, S.J. of Oakland, outlined the conference’s stances on school choice in a March, 2019 letter to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) and Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Ala.), Education Freedom Scholarships.
“In addition to parents having the duty to educate their children, the Catholic Church also teaches that parents should have access to government resources to successfully meet the education needs of their children,” Bishop Barber wrote.
Byrne quoted Pope St. Paul VI’s declaration on Christian education, Gravissimum Educationis: “The public power, which has the obligation to protect and defend the rights of citizens, must see to it, in its concern for distributive justice, that public subsidies are paid out in such a way that parents are truly free to choose according to their conscience the schools they want for their children.”
Barber also praised Congress in December for reauthorizing the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP), which allows for education vouchers.
“The Catholic Church has consistently taught that children have the universal right to an education, and that parents have the right and responsibility to serve as the primary educators of their children,” Barber stated, “The Church also teaches that the state has a fundamental obligation to support parents in fulfilling such a right.”