To the Editor:
As our Legislature debates vouchers in public education and financial support for private schools, it is time to consider the purpose of Catholic education, the measure of its effectiveness, and what part of our population is being welcomed into our school system.
Historically, our Catholic school system was maintained through the unpaid labor of religious women. That led us to an inadequate appreciation of the huge task of figuring out financing for a school system now maintained by paid labor. So far, we rely on tuition and parish financial support. We send our Catholic-school-educated high school students on to college at nearly double the rate of students from public schools. That secular measure is often enough for many to justify our educational efforts.
A measure more in keeping with our stated desire to be a welcoming Church is to see whom we welcome into our schools. The Americans with Disabilities Act grants an exclusion to religious schools, which means Catholic schools are not required to educate students with physical or mental disabilities. Some Catholic schools do educate students with special needs but not all of them have the financial means to do so.
Are young people educated in Catholic schools more likely to remain in the Church? That would seem a more relevant measure of success than college attendance. Secondly, it is likely that any tax windfall will be temporary. Certainly, it is no substitute for confronting our financial school crisis. From the parish to the national level, it is beyond time to dedicate our brains and values to figuring out how to reform our schools’ financial quagmire.