We are heartened that the nominee to head the U.S. Department of Education is open to expanding access to private schools. Sadly, many who are zealous for “choice” when it comes to abortion are decidedly against it when it comes to where children can be educated.
For too long, we have let our children suffer because the public education bureaucracy has sought above all to keep itself inflated beyond its merit.
In the 1965 Declaration on Christian Education, the Second Vatican Council declared that government leaders are obligated to see to it that “subsidies are paid out in such a way that parents are truly free to choose according to their conscience the schools they want for their children.” The U.S. bishops support legislative initiatives that promote parental choice. One successful model that could work nationwide is in place in the nation’s capital.
The D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program allows students from low-income families to attend the school of their choice. About 7,000 students have taken advantage over the past 12 years. Almost 90 percent of the scholarship recipients have graduated and gone on to college. Compare that to D.C. public schools, from which two of five students drop out.
School choice should expand to Oregon, where public districts have been flailing. If it does, not all Oregon students will choose Catholic schools. But those who do will find an ancient tradition accompanied by the most modern educational strategies.
Oregon Catholic schools already provide great benefit to the state, offering high-quality education to thousands of youths at no cost to taxpayers. In fact, families at Catholic schools are now paying twice for education, via taxes and tuition. Many of us are glad to support public schools in the hope they will improve. But for those who can’t afford to pay double and so are limited to public schools, education choice is essential and just.