As many immigrant children living in northern New Jersey reap the benefits of a parochial school education, many others are exploited by sweatshops that require long hours, endanger workers, and pay less than the minimum wage.
Recognizing that such a stark example of social injustice exists in its own backyard, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Newark has said it will refuse to buy school uniforms made in such sweatshops.
The archdiocese is also introducing a new curriculum on sweatshops to be taught to students in grades 7-12. And teachers will show students how to recognize products produced in such shops.
Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick said last month that the archdiocese was checking state records to make sure the half-dozen companies from which it buys uniforms were complying with labor laws. If any suppliers are found to be using sweatshop labor, the archbishop said, the schools will pressure them to change manufacturers. Suppliers that failed to respond would face a boycott.
"There are enough kids in our schools whose parents actually work in these sweatshops that they recognized immediately what we were talking about," said Michael Hurley, a spokesman for the archdiocese.
Some parents of students in the Indianapolis public schools are upset that their superintendent spoke at a recent fund-raising event for a privately financed voucher program.
Esperanza Zendejas, who last month announced her intention to resign as superintendent, delivered remarks at an Oct. 24 lunch where business leaders were encouraged to donate a portion of their companies' revenue as well as their personal salaries to, among other efforts, a private program that awards $800 scholarships for use in private schools.
"We don't see that as a dedication to improving the public schools or a commitment to public education," Sally Flood, a member of an Indianapolis parents' group called Parents for Public Education, said of the superintendent's participation.
Ms. Zendejas had her school board's permission to speak at the lunch, but neither the board nor she knew the event was a fund raiser, Julie Scott, the school board president, said.
"I think the board in its wisdom thought it was better to have someone there representing IPS and not just the faction of people who were supporting vouchers," Ms. Zendejas added. She did not mention vouchers during her remarks, but did say public schools could benefit from competition.
--JEFF ARCHER [email protected]