"I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power." - Thomas Jefferson 1820

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Monday, February 28, 2011

Are Vouchers for Parochial Schools an Example of Social Justice for Parents?

Is parental choice in schools a social justice issue? A lecture for parents of students attending private schools using taxpayer dollars is being held at a St. Louis area Catholic high school:

2011 Hesburgh Lecture

When: Saturday April 2, 2011 @ 7:30 PM
Where: Kevin Kline Theatre at Saint Louis Priory

Parental Choice: An Issue of Social Justice

Patricia O’Hara ’74 J.D., Professor of Law

Catholic primary and secondary schools today face daunting challenges in the wake of demographic shifts, the changing role of faith in the lives of American families and the fundamental alternations in the way in which Catholic schools are staffed and financed.
As bishops make painful choices with respect to schools in their dioceses, the stakes could not be higher for sustaining a transformative system of education for the next generation. One piece of the puzzle in creating a new paradigm for Catholic schools in the 21st century is the possibility of public support for private and religious schools that provide a public service to society. Can a case be made, as a matter of social justice, that parents who choose Catholic schools for their children should enjoy some semblance of the public economic support enjoyed by those who choose public schools?

Is public support of parochial school a social justice idea or more a belief parents should be able to decide how their tax dollars are being spent in choosing the appropriate education for their child with minimal governmental control and mandates? Here are some questions for the bishops: if the Catholic schools accept government funding, are they under government mandates in regard to standards, assessments and personal data reporting? Could the government prevent the teachings of the Catholic Church and other religious teaching in the classroom since there would government involvement? Is "social justice" worth handing over the autonomy of a parochial school's delivery of education for government funding?

Whose idea of "social justice" will the Church be following with the acceptance of government funding? The Church's or the government's? Does the Church face the danger of becoming a Church based on secularization vs staying a Church based on faith if it enjoys some semblance of the public economic support enjoyed by those who choose public schools?


  1. I believe vouchers to any school should be issued to parents, certainly in failing school districts, as long as the vouchers do not exceed the cost charged/allocated on a per student basis in the highest rate district in the state.

    It is a proven point that students who attend non public schools have scored better on tests, the education costs are lower than comparable public schools, and the matriculation rate to high school and beyond is higher. This has been proven time and again in private and parochial schools located in the same neighborhoods as failing public schools, and the student population was drawn from those same failing public schools.

  2. Anonymous,

    Thanks for your comments and I believe vouchers have had some successes. The question is:

    "Does the Church face the danger of becoming a Church based on secularization vs staying a Church based on faith if it enjoys some semblance of the public economic support enjoyed by those who choose public schools"?

    Does the Church wish to give up autonomy in teaching WHAT it wants to teach and HOW it teaches for federal money and the strings attached? If it wants to accept vouchers, fine. But it needs to understand the excellent instruction it provides will be compromised in some ways. Is it worth the tradeoff?

  3. I have a friend that teaches reading at three parochial schools. She is a Title One teacher. The schools where she teaches had to provided a classroom that did NOT have a cross or crucifix. From what I understand of the Title One program - it is federally funded (through school district grants), has something to do with the number of students receiving free lunches and MUST comply with federal guidelines. She says that she is required to TEST more than INSTRUCT and that drives her crazy! She is an excellent reading teacher that loves to see children succeed.

    I wish that we would end up with a voucher system that included religious schools (no strings attached) - but, I don't think that it will work out that way. I have always believed that a voucher system was the way to improve education, but we will need to look out for those unintended consequences.

    Also, please read the article (to the right) entitled - VOUCHER PROGRAM GIVING CONTROL BACK TO PARENTS. Please contact the reprsentatives that are co-sponsoring HJR10 with your input and concerns. We assume that our politicians have all the info to make the best decisions but, citizen input, questions and concerns is what is needed to get it done the right way! "Attached strings" may be something that they have not have focused on - that seems to be going around a lot lately.


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