Full and Fair Parental Educational Choice: A Path to Justice

Over the last few months, we’ve discussed the value of Catholic schools and that, quite simply, Catholic schools work. It is important that all families can have Catholic schools available to them.

Parental choice in education is a justice issue. The United States is the only Western democratic nation that does not provide a fair share of education tax dollars so parents can choose an appropriate education for their children. This lack of parental access to their share of governmental resources should be of great concern to all citizens, especially parents who want the best for their children.

Recent public opinion polls demonstrate that a strong preference is emerging in the United States for parental choice in education. At this time there are 29 states and the District of Columbia that have passed laws creating 61 publicly financed programs that assist more than 1.5 million families by providing them with financial resources to exercise choice in their selection of a school for their children. Efforts are underway in several additional states to enact similar legislation. Choice programs may take several forms:

Vouchers: some of the funds spent by a public school district to educate a child are given instead to a family in the form of a voucher or certificate to pay tuition at a school of their own choosing.

Tax-Credit Scholarships: these programs allow taxpayers (corporate or personal) to receive full or partial tax credit for donations to nonprofit organizations that are created to provide scholarships to be used for private school tuition.

Individual Tax Credits and Deductions: these allow parents to receive state income tax credits or deductions for money they spend on approved educational expenses for their children.

Education Savings Accounts (ESAs): state education funds are deposited by the local government into authorized savings accounts that may be used for specific education uses, such as tuition at private schools.

As a leader in Catholic school education, what can you do? If you are in a state that offers a choice program, encourage your families to take maximum use of it! If you are not, consider becoming politically involved to advocate for choice legislation in your state. Contact your state Catholic Conference to find out if they are working on this issue – and urge them to do so if they are not. Together, with one voice, educators, parents and public officials who unite in a nationwide effort for parental choice programs can effectively begin to meet the educational needs of every child across this nation.

Please plan to join us at NCEA 2017 in St. Louis from April 18-20. There, we will be sharing important data about the current state of Catholic schools which will serve as valuable resources for your school choice conversations. In addition, you can benefit from our robust program full of sessions for educators in all aspects of Catholic school education, network with your Catholic school colleagues and enlighten your spirit. Don’t forget – the early bird registration rate expires January 23; register today! We look forward to seeing you there!