Affording Catholic Education

School choice for all.
by Rosalia Tenorio | Source: Catholic.net

Consider the questions: Why American parents should have the right to determine in which school their due tax-dollars will be allocated to finance their children’s education? American parents concerned with the poor quality of education they children may receive on public schools end up being billed twice for their children’s education if they decide to enroll them on a private institution. These parents pay property taxes and full school tuition. Additionally, such expense is not tax-deductible. In other words, they do not make use of the tax funding that is due to them, simply because they refuse to entrust their children’s education to the government. And why should them? As Milton Friedman once said: 

We give low income people food stamps… and we as society say that is well and good, but if someone suggested those food stamps should be spendable only at government run groceries stores, presumably someone would have the wit to point out that the government has no special edge on producing and distributing groceries … Today … the government gives children education stamps, but insists those stamps be spent only on government run education stores. What makes people think government has any special edge on producing or distributing education?  (Byrne,  2008).

In fact, data support the argument that the government is nowhere near the edge on producing or distributing education. According to the California Department of Education, one in every four of the state's students fails to finish high school. In the Los Angeles Unified School District, LAUSD -- which is supposed to educate 10% of all California's school-age children -- a third of all students drop out. Similar data cross-country point again and again to the fact that the government has proven itself unable to deliver quality education. Nonetheless, the government imposes its education monopoly on parents by holding full rights to use and management of tax dollars allocated to education. The choice school movement has long defended that in order for public schools to thrive in offering higher educational quality they need to compete with private schools for tax funds. Education is a multibillion dollar industry and the country would gain more if it was subject to the free market law: Offer and demand.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics California spent $7, 905 per pupil in 2005. In contrast, the National Catholic Educational Association reports that the average annual tuition cost in 2007 was of $2,607 in the elementary level, and $6,906 in the secondary level. Spending less money Catholic schools are able to boast a 99% graduation rate, from 97% of the students making into college. Critics will say these numbers are not fair because Catholic schools get to elect the students they will serve, and turn down non-achieving students. Whereas this is true, on the other hand, it is worthwhile to note that the tremendous success of Catholic graduation rates not only include schools that are part of voucher programs, which cannot turn students down, but it also includes Catholic schools that do serve special needs students. The overwhelmingly evidence supported by the data is the fact that Catholic schools are delivering more with less money and that public schools have a lot to learn and benefit from the parochial schools model and practice that are currently available to American parents who are able to choose their children’s school.

 According to the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice (2008) 23 states currently adopt the so-called “school voucher” system, which is indeed a way of combating the monopoly held by government on public education. However, the terminology voucher is conceptually defected. Many may link the word “voucher” to a governmental help given to social-economic underprivileged citizens, whereas this is not what the school choice movement is about. School choice entails the defense of Americans’ right to choose the institution that can best educate their children. Americans do not need governmental help to fund their children’s education, in fact homeowners have already picked up the tab and they pay enough to provide high quality education to all American children. The “school vouchers” should not be understood as a social-aid help, but rather the parental exercise of the freedom that is due to them to use their  very own tax dollars share to pay for the education they determine is best for their children. Educational credit would be a more accurate terminology because the money is already there and belong to the children.

Another argument defended by the school choice movement is that by choosing to what school send their children parents are empowered with the ability to break away from the poverty cycle perpetuated by the zip code placement model currently adopted on the public system. School choice advocators stress that empowered parents can choose the educational institution that according to their own judgment can best educate their children, ending the culture of determining a child’s life perspective based on their zip code. The pool of available schools would include not only Catholic schools, but all private schools.

American parents need to realize that they have the innate right to freely decide the best options for their children. This task is beyond the government’s role and needs to remain that away for personal freedom’s sake. The 1925 US Supreme Court ruling is clear “the child is not the mere creature of the state.” Parents cannot abdicate of their natural and legal right to be the sole decision maker when it comes to the education of their children. In fact, the lack of parents’ access to educational tax funds to enroll their children on the school of their choice is result of a governmental mindset of monopolization of education. This monopolization has gone beyond retention of tax-dollars to the point that the public educational system has aggressively combated the idea of parents being in charge of their children’s education. The educational public system has putforth policies throughout the country to ensure that parents’ are retaliated on their freedom to choose what is best for their children. Notably, the recent attempt to prohibit homeschooling in California is an example: In the case In re Rachel L. vs. Superior Court of the State of California for the County of Los Angeles, still in the California Appeals Court, the Court is to decide whether parents can legally "home school" their children in California.

Religious Persecution
In addition, to the problem with the quality of education provided by the government on the K-12 grades, parents who hold traditional family values, most commonly present among the Judeo-Christian and Muslim populations, are forced to submit their children to religious persecution in public schools. Whereas, the topic of religion has been virtually banned from public schools through controversial policies, the problem stands that traditional family values as well as the traditional religious’ understanding of sanctity of human life and of the role of science are consistently challenged on public schools.

On one side American liberals defend that separation of Church and state was meant to keep the Church outside the government and its agencies. On the other side, conservative Americans point out facts such as the American currency displaying “In God We Trust”, crosses and Ten Commandments monuments found on every court from the foundation of the American legal system until not long ago, among others, as proof of the exact opposite, that separation of Church and state was meant to guarantee freedom of worship for all Americans, without governmental intervention, they argue that the goal was to keep the government out of the church not the other way around, even because the founding fathers themselves attended and financially supported churches. (O’Connor & Sabato, 2002). It is beyond of the scope of this paper to further investigate the evidences pointed by both sides, however, the relevancy of this topic to the school choice movement is to bring to light that Muslims and Judeo-Christian children face religious persecution on American public schools and that freedom of school choice would solve the matter.

This religious persecution goes on in the United States under the label of tolerance. However, the new policies put forth to accomplish the protection of this ideology is absolutely intolerant with values held within the Muslims and Judeo-Christian populations,  which indeed make up for the vast majority of Americans.  The most recent example of such practice to gain national attention was the Senate Bill 777, which has already passed the state Senate, by a 7-3 vote along party lines and, should it go into law, would prohibit textbooks, instructors, and classes from teaching anything that "reflects or promotes bias against" those perceived with gender issues.  

While the Judeo-Christian belief that engaging in a homosexual act is a grave sin, described in the Bible as “abomination against God” (Leviticus 18:22), hatred against people is also incomparable with these religious traditions. In fact, the most preeminent religious bodies, such as the Catholic Church, have been very vocal in defending the dignity of persons with a homosexual inclinations, who must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Nonetheless such view is far from endorsing the engagement on homosexual activity or of finding it morally acceptable. (USCCB, 2006). In fact under the directive of Benedict XVI the Vatican has issued official pastoral instructions on the topic:

Deep-seated homosexual tendencies, which are found in a number of men and women, are also objectively disordered and, for those same people, often constitute a trial. Such persons must be accepted with respect and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. They are called to fulfill God's will in their lives and to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross the difficulties they may encounter. (Vatican,  2005).

Conservative groups are often concerned with legislations that force public schools and agencies to positively portray non-traditional lifestyles to children who attend California schools. The bottom-line is that whether mutual respect is to be reinforced in every human interaction there is a large gap between respect for a different opinion and public policies and in-class lectures that demise an opposite religious view of a certain lifestyle, whichever it may be. The hostile environment created in public schools for the children of the vast majority Americans who defend traditional family values is a compelling reason for these parents to take a stand on defending their right to choose the provider of their children’s education and gladly take their business elsewhere.

Conclusion
It is important to acknowledge that there are critics to the school choice movement on all sides: Some point to the fact that some public resources are already shared with private schools through Title programs and that should limit the tax funding of those institutions. Some private educational leaders, including Catholics, are afraid of the double-sword effect public funding can cause in their school communities because of the requirements that come with it, which are not always compatible with their educational philosophy. (Marshall, 2008).

However, these arguments are not really against school choice but favor it. Firstly, the idea that somehow the government is helping students who attend private schools with Title funds is another evidence of the monopoly mentality perpetuated by governmental agencies that want control over the multibillion-dollar educational budget. Americans are to realize that tax-dollars are their dollars and they are the ones entitled to the benefits it may buy and also the ones to decide how to best spend it, the government is not on position to grant educational “aid” to students with the money taxpayers have allocated to do just that. Rather, applying tax dollars to private education only means to invest American tax-dollars on the most profitable organizations in the educational industry as opposed to allocating these resources on failing schools.

In regards to the challenges posted to private educational leaders, including Catholics, these educators ought to realize that increasing accountability in their practice represents the cultivation of better educational practices that will potentially benefit students. Likewise, opening parochial schools to the challenge of educating all children only makes them work more in align with their spiritual mission.

Lastly, while school choice is in all likelihood beneficial to the achievement of adequate education, private school leaders must beware not to fall into the banking educational trap imposed by standardization testing practices largely adopted on the public educational system. These assessments lack a holistic evaluation of each student,  and are irreconcilable  with an educational practice geared towards critical thinking. (Freire, 1970). Rather it promotes meaningless memorization of information that is not relevant to students’ social context. In serving a larger population a great challenge educators from the private sector face is to guarantee their successful educational practices can still be replicated.

 

References
Byrne, P.(2008). Choice is closer than you think.  Advocate, volume 13 (issue 1), 20-21.

Freire, P. (1970). Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York: Continuum.

Friedman Foundation. Writings on school choice [2008]. Retrieved June 1, 2008, from http://www.friedmanfoundation.org/friedman/research/ShowResearch.do

Grocholewski, Z. (2005). Instruction concerning the criteria for the discernment of vocations with regard to persons with homosexual tendencies in view of their admission to the Seminary and to Holy Orders. Vatican. Retrieved July 21, 2008, from http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/ccatheduc/documents/rc_con_ccatheduc_doc_20051104_istruzione_en.html

Huntington, D. (2008). Pro-gay curriculum bill passes Calif. Assembly Committee. Christian Post. Retrieved July 21, 2008, from http://www.christianpost.com/article/20070628/pro-gay-curriculum-bill-passes-calif-assembly-committee.htm

In re Rachel L. Vs. Superior Court of the State of California for the County of Los Angeles, Cal. App. 4th (2008) .

Malloy, D. (2006). Ministry to persons with a homosexual inclination: Guidelines for pastoral care. United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Retrieved July 21, 2008, from http://www.usccb.org/dpp/Ministry.pdf

Marshall, A. (2008).  Milwaukee: The mixed blessing of vouchers. Who will save America’s urban schools? Retrieved June 1, 2008, from http://www.edexcellence.net/doc/catholic_schools_08.pdf

Myers, S. (2008). Georgia special needs Scholarship rises to the challenge.  Advocate, volume 13 (issue 1), 16-19.

National Catholic Educational Association. Statistical overview of Catholic education [2008]. Retrieved June 1, 2008, from http://www.ncea.org/FAQ/CatholicEducationFAQ.asp

National Center for Education Statistics. Expenditure per pupil [2005]. Retrieved June 1, 2008, from http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d07/tables/dt07_174.asp

O’Connor, K., & Sabato, L. (2002). American government continuity and change. New York, NY: Longman.

Pierce Vs. Society of the Sisters, 45 Sup. Ct. 571 (U.S. 1925).

Peterson, K. (2005). School vouchers slow to spread. StateLine.org. Retrieved July 21, 2008, from http://www.stateline.org/live/ViewPage.action?siteNodeId=136&languageId=1&contentId=29789

Rutten, T. (2008). Drop-dead dropout numbers. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 21, 2008, from http://www.latimes.com/la-oe-rutten19-2008jul19,0,169806.column

 



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Published by: mOEJzTHZzElbDYMASmr
Date: 2011-08-26 05:50:53
I'm not easily impesrsed. . . but that's impressing me! :)

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