Why Support From Taxpayers Cannot ‘Save’ Catholic Schools

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To the Editor:

A few points concerning "Papal Visit Spurs Plea for ‘Saving’ Catholic Schools," (April 16, 2008):

In the article, you cite the recent Thomas B. Fordham Institute report “Who Will Save America’s Urban Catholic Schools?” as the source of the statistic that U.S. Catholic-school enrollment peaked at approximately 4.4 million students around 1965. The National Catholic Educational Association, however, puts peak enrollment at 5.5 million students that year ("Catholic Closures Linked to Growth of City Charters," Feb. 13, 2008). Further, studies by Catholic colleges have shown that the decline since then was due to changing parental preferences, rather than economics or demographics, as the Fordham Institute asserts.

As for the possibility of tax-funded vouchers to help stem the downward trend, the 2006 Notre Dame report also cited in your article states that the Catholic Church’s faith-based schools are “the most effective and important resource for evangelization in the history of the Church in the United States.” That statement of purpose alone should disqualify these schools from any direct or indirect tax support.

But let’s look at the bright side. Nonpublic enrollment declines mean public enrollment increases, and that should mean increased public support for more adequate and more equitable funding for public schools.

Edd Doerr
Americans for Religious Liberty
Silver Spring, Md.

To the Editor:

A task force of the University of Notre Dame, a Catholic institution, lamented the decline of Catholic schooling in the United States, saying, as quoted in your article “Papal Visit Spurs Plea for ‘Saving’ Catholic Schools,” “Will it be said of our generation that we presided over the demise of the most effective and important resource for evangelization in the history of the Church in the United States?”

The purpose of Catholic schools is evangelization, creating more Roman Catholics. With evangelism, rather than quality education, as their goal, as good educationally as parochial schools may be, it is unconstitutional to give them government money.

Parents have every right to follow their faith in sending their children to parochial schools. But these schools, rather than trying to get tax money intended for public schools, need to focus on creating scholarships and acquiring grants from private funds if they really want to educate poor children.

Rhonda Browning
Gonzales, La

Vol. 27, Issue 36, Page 26

Published in Print: May 7, 2008, as Why Support From Taxpayers Cannot ‘Save’ Catholic Schools

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