Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Saving Catholic Schools

I am saddened but not surprised by the financial difficulties facing some of our local Catholic schools. With taxes fully supporting a $12,000 per student public education, it is no wonder that little money remains for private schooling. As such, the effort to save our local Catholic schools is likely to fail unless private school advocates address the $12,000 to $0 funding gap between public and private education in Racine. Addressing this imbalance will necessitate entry into political debate. Public funding of education is a political decision. The Milwaukee voucher program has passed constitutional muster. Vouchers could save private schools that are substantially and unfairly harmed by a $12,000 funding imbalance. I doubt that private school advocates can save the private schooling option without addressing this political and financial discrimination.

3 comments:

Preachrboy said...

As someone involved in the operation and governance of at least 2 local parochial schools (Lutheran), I will be watching these discussions closely. Vouchers/Choice would bring certain advantages, but possibly unintended consequences too.

One question is whether acceptance of such money will give government the idea they can limit what religion can be taught (when and how). I can even envision scenarios in which funding is offered, but with such ideological strings attached that schools like ours will find it too troublesome to accept.

Another question is the internal "balance" of our schools. For example, our Lutheran schools often average about 60% Lutheran students and 40% from other traditions (or no church affiliation). What would an influx of mostly non-Lutheran Choice students do to this ratio, and what effects would this have on the school? Who knows.

At present, though, I believe the "cost of education" per pupil at our schools is somewhere in the neighborhood of $3,000-$4,000. Nowhere near $12,000

Wade said...

Denis,
Do you know of any government restrictions or mandates put on Parochial schools in a voucher system that would negatively change the way they currently educate their students.

Denis Navratil said...

preachrboy and Wade, you bring up excellent points/questions. Government money will come with strings attached, no doubt. What those strings might entail would be hammered out politically. In Milwaukee, the public money goes to private schools via parents. I am not aware of any restrictions on the teaching of religion, and I believe many of the voucher schools in Milwaukee are established religious schools. However, you can be sure that opponents of vouchers would try to foist as many restrictions on voucher schools as they possibly could. And if they succeeded, it is quite possible that some schools may decide it is not worth the trouble. Of course that is exactly what the public school teachers union would want, as it would enable them to retain a grip on students who would otherwise leave the public school system. I wouldn't know how to address the "balance" question that schools may face, but the beauty of a voucher system is that each school could tackle that issue independent of a overbearing bureaucracy. And lastly, while I share your wariness of government money and oversight, it is I hope preferable to the disappearance of many private schools.