The recent announcements of the Blue Ribbon Commission in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia have motivated many people to action on the issue of school choice. The need for major restructuring in Catholic schools is a vivid example of why school choice is necessary:
Current parents are struggling to choose the best school for their child. As those who have been following the school choice debate know so well, vouchers and an increase to the Educational Improvement Tax Credits (EITC) would have helped the burden felt by families and schools across our region.
Where does the issue of school choice stand? Senate Bill 1, the Opportunity Scholarship Act, passed the Senate in late October by a vote of 27-22. In the final days of the 2011 session, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives did not take up the issue of vouchers to the great disappointment of school choice proponents across the state. The voucher proposal discussed by House leadership was vastly different than Senate Bill 1; ultimately, neither Senate Bill 1 nor this different language was put before the House for a vote.
However, the issue of school choice is still active, with Gov. Tom Corbett and other members of legislative leadership voicing support for vouchers each day. While the final version of the voucher program is not yet known, it is likely that it will begin by helping families in failing school districts.
While vouchers may not be available to all families immediately, they will help low-income families and will free up EITC, diocesan and parish funding that can assist both low- and middle-income families now.
School choice will help increase enrollment by allowing even more families the opportunity to receive a Catholic education. These new students will help keep Catholic schools vibrant, accessible and available to more families.
Some school choice opponents worry that this legislation is anti-public schools. School choice is not a public vs. private school issue; in fact, public and private schools are partners in meeting the educational needs of our Commonwealth. For some students, the local public school is a good fit; for others, a private or Catholic school may work better.
Financially, just as public schools received significant increases in funding after the EITC program was introduced, so too will they receive funding when vouchers are passed.
For example, if every student who qualifies under Senate Bill 1 takes a voucher in the first year, their scholarships will cost the state 0.28 percent of the overall education budget. That is only 28 cents for every $100 that will still be allocated to public schools.
Further, local tax monies remain at the school and the state subsidy for schools that are not on the list of failing schools will not be affected.
The December inaction on vouchers in the House is disappointing, especially for those who see school choice as a social justice issue. As Archbishop Chaput wrote in his Jan. 12 column on CatholicPhilly.com, “To put it simply: Vouchers are a matter of parental rights and basic justice.”
However, school choice legislation is still before the Pa. legislature. Families can channel their energy into ensuring that this legislation passes, thus creating a more just and equitable educational system in our state. Contact your legislator by going to www.pacatholic.org/advocacy.
In a time to build, CatholicPhilly.com connects people and communities
As society emerges from the loss and separation of the pandemic, CatholicPhilly.com works to strengthen the connections between people, families and communities every day by delivering the news people need to know about the Catholic Church, especially in the Philadelphia region, and the world in which we live.
By your donation in any amount, you join in our mission to inform, form in the Catholic faith and inspire the thousands of readers who visit every month.
Here is how you can help:
- A $100 gift allows us to present award-winning photos of Catholic life in our neighborhoods.
- A $50 gift enables us to cover a news event in a local parish, school or Catholic institution.
- A $20 gift lets us obtain solid faith formation resources that can deepen your spirituality and knowledge of the faith.
- A small, automated monthly donation means you can support us continually and easily.
Won't you consider making a gift today?
Please join in the church's vital mission of communications by offering a gift in whatever amount that you can ― a single gift of $40, $50, $100, or more, or a monthly donation. Your gift will strengthen the fabric of our entire Catholic community.
Make your donation by credit card here:
Or make your donation by check:
222 N. 17th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103