Cardinal Dolan op-ed urges passage of nationwide school choice bill

| March 10, 2017 | 2 Comments

Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York and Pope Francis pray with students in 2015 at Our Lady Queen of Angels School in the Harlem section of New York City. Cardinal Dolan March 9 urged President Donald Trump to follow through on a recent call for legislation that funds school choice for disadvantaged youth nationwide. CNS photo/Tony Gentile, Reuters

Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York urged President Donald Trump to follow through on a recent call for legislation that funds school choice for disadvantaged youth nationwide.

Writing in a column for The Wall Street Journal March 9, Cardinal Dolan said he hoped that the president would “push Congress to make scholarship tax credits available to working-class families.”

The cardinal called for rapid action in Congress so that families can benefit as soon as possible from having a choice on where to send their children to school.

Seventeen states already have scholarship tax credit programs and Cardinal Dolan said children in the remaining states “deserve the same opportunities.”

Under a nationwide tax credit program parents can opt to send their children to private schools, the cardinal wrote, noting that 97 percent of Catholic high school students in the Archdiocese of New York graduate in four years and 95 percent attend college.

The column cited the benefits of one such program, the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship program, for 300 students who attend St. Andrew Catholic School in Orlando, Florida, which Trump visited March 3 to announce his support for school choice. Statewide, nearly 98,000 children from low-income families attend parochial or private schools under the program.

Cardinal Dolan wrote that scholarship tax credits “help advance educational and economic justice. They strengthen society by creating opportunity for those who might not otherwise have it.”

He also cited a report in the Peabody Journal of Education in 2016, which reviewed 21 studies on the effect of school choice on test scores of students not participating in such a program. The authors found that in 20 of the studies, the competition from private schools led to improved test results for students in public schools.

The column concluded that taxpayers save money under school choice programs because school overcrowding and costs are reduced.

“Public school classrooms would not be able to handle the considerable influx of children if Catholic and other religious schools closed. We save the public money, and we educate children just as well, if not better, for half the cost when you compare Catholic school tuition with public school spending per pupil,” Cardinal Dolan wrote.

An effort to pass a school choice bill in New York failed in 2012 despite bipartisan and labor union support and again in 2015 because of teacher union opposition, the column said, and therefore, a national solution “is needed to bring relief to families who need it.”

Any effort to adopt school choice must protect religious liberty, Cardinal Dolan stressed.

“The Catholic Church has always stood in solidarity with the poor and vulnerable and our most effective charitable ministry is our schools,” he wrote. “A high-quality, values-based education is simply the surest path out of poverty.”

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  • Dominic Deus

    Dominic Deus here. That would be me who went to Catholic primary school and am grateful for it. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/a6f15f9b870e4b06cb8e127c8ab7c3ee24ea6bd0ab147e553c7d8c82cb57b6cc.jpg

    Transferring public dollars to private education would be a boon for Catholic schools but would it be ethical to accept those dollars? They are taxpayer money appropriated for public education and every voucher or “scholarship” following a child to a Catholic school is money taken away from public schools.

    We need be mindful of the fact that the American commitment to universal, tuition free public education is one of our greatest democratic achievements. Deconstructing it in whole or in part to benefit private schools, religious or otherwise, would be profoundly un-American.

    Let us be honest in our representation: Catholic schools do not have the capacity to serve all or even the larger part of disadvantaged children in underperforming public schools. What’s more, the goal of the voucher program, now rebranded as “school choice,” is to attract students without significant and costly special needs, students who have never had an Individualized Education Plan (IEP), have no exceptional disciplinary problems and already have established records of doing relatively well under difficult circumstances. In other words private schools including Catholic ones, want to “cherry pick.”

    It’s long been known that taking students out of underperforming schools and placing them in above average schools has the effect of improving their performance. Why wouldn’t it? There is no Catholic magic here; better public schools do better for their students. Is it a moral choice to then take money from distressed public schools and impoverish them further, removing not only their most accomplished learners and providing even less funding for the vast majority of students who will be left behind?

    This is nothing more than resegregation by another name.

    Catholic schools accomplish much of the work they do by paying their teaching and support staff less than the public schools and having weak benefit and retirement programs. Is that not a miscarriage of social justice? https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/2599932851e43a17423a8704340311fe597b0d0d2f9c7f0fabb8009068cc9cf4.jpg

    The best teachers ever–but underpaid. Actually, not paid at all.

    Finally, Cardinal Dolan stressed…“The Catholic Church has always stood in solidarity with the poor and vulnerable and our most effective charitable ministry is our schools,” he wrote. “A high-quality, values-based education is simply the surest path out of poverty.”

    Fine then. Let’s keep our ministry charitable, not dependent on tax dollars, and pay our staff adequately. One more thing: let’s dispense with the petty slander of suggesting public schools are not “values-based.”

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/959207c970840f4de9eca557eb71498cb15efc067609441b5c999543d0c8e9c9.jpg

  • Dominic Deus

    It’s not about religious liberty or school choice; it’s about defunding public education by transferring money to private schools, religious or not. Need based scholarships or student loans should be funded by the schools themselves or Catholic Charities.

    Parents who wish to remove their children from public education and place them in Catholic schools can pay the tuition and related expenses the same way they would at a private school.

    This is a non-issue unless the real agenda is to use taxpayer dollars to support Catholic education.It should not be.
    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/959207c970840f4de9eca557eb71498cb15efc067609441b5c999543d0c8e9c9.jpg