blog

The U.S. Supreme Court and School Choice10 Apr

The U.S. Supreme Court is set to consider a case that could have a major impact on school choice programs across the country.  Capitol DomeThe case, Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia v. Comer, deals with whether a church-run preschool can be excluded from a Missouri program that provides funding for rubberized surface material for children’s playgrounds.  The state claims that including the preschool in the program would violate a Missouri constitutional provision commonly known as a “Blaine Amendment.”  Blaine Amendments exist in 37 state constitutions.  Generally speaking, these types of provisions prohibit state funds from flowing to religious schools.

 

Kentucky is one of the states that features a Blaine Amendment in its state constitution.  Blaine Amendments were adopted as an anti-Catholic/anti-immigrant measure in the late 19th century.  Some lower level courts have recognized the motives behind the Blaine Amendments in their rulings and have declined to use them to prohibit parental choice in education.  Likewise, it is possible that the U.S. Supreme Court will find in Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia v. Comer that Blaine Amendments cannot be used to discriminate against religious institutions with regard to public programs. 

 

It is unlikely that this case will impact the legality of Scholarship Tax Credit proposals currently pending in Kentucky.  Scholarship Tax Credits have a perfect record in the courts.  This is because Scholarship Tax Credit programs rely solely on private funding.  Challenges to Scholarship Tax Credit programs under state constitutions have been dismissed and it is expected that the Kentucky Supreme Court would reach a similar conclusion.  Thus, regardless of how the Supreme Court rules in Trinity Lutheran, a Scholarship Tax Credit program in Kentucky is almost certainly constitutional.

 

Nevertheless, a favorable ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court would provide further support for the argument that parents should have the right to choose the most appropriate classroom for their children, regardless of whether it is a religious or secular school.  

 

The Supreme Court will hear arguments in the Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia v. Comer on April 19th, 2017.  A decision will likely be issued by late June. 

blog

Scholarship Tax Credits for KY Families09 Jan

Senator Ralph Alvarado

Senator Ralph Alvarado

Representative Bam Carney

Representative Bam Carney

 

The first week of the 2017 Regular Session of the Kentucky General Assembly wrapped up on Saturday with the passage of several bills.  HB 162 was filed by House Education Committee Chairman Bam Carney and SB 102 was filed by Senator Ralph Alvarado.  SB 102 was co-sponsored by Senate Education Committee Chairman Mike Wilson and Senator Max Wise. Though many issues are of importance to us as Catholics, I urge you to support these two bills that would help provide families with more options when it comes to their children’s education, regardless of their income or ZIP Code.

During the recess, please be sure to do the following:

  1. Thank the primary sponsors and co-sponsors mentioned above for their leadership on this issue;
  2. Encourage your state legislators to support and prioritize this legislation;
  3. Inform your friends and neighbors of this opportunity.

You can reach state legislators by calling the Legislative Message Line at 1-800-372-7181 (1-866-840-6574 for Spanish).  If you do not know your state legislators, the operator on the line will assist you in getting the message to the correct representative and senator.

These proposals will likely be considered by the Kentucky General Assembly during the month of February.  Please sign-up for our Faithful Citizen Advocate email list in order to stay up-to-date on this issue and invite others to do so as well.

Photo: Kentucky Legislative Research Commission

blog

General Assembly Week 1 Recap08 Jan

sb5housevote

Final House passage of SB 5. Photo by Joyce Ostrander

The first five days of the 2017 Regular Session of the Kentucky General Assembly are behind us, and a number of bills of interest to CCK have already advanced. You may click on the links below to read the bills and find the roll call votes to see how your senator and representative voted.

HB 2 – The “Ultrasound Bill” – HB 2 requires abortion providers to provide the opportunity to view an ultrasound to women seeking an abortion. The provider is required to offer but the woman has an affirmative right to refuse. HB 2 has passed and is awaiting the governor’s signature.

SB 5 – Bans abortion after 20 weeds post-fertilization. This is approximately when an unborn child is viable and when it is believed he or she can begin to feel pain. SB 5 has also passed and is on the governor’s desk.

HB 1 – “Right to Work” – This bill gives workers the “right” to work in a unionized workplace without having to join the union or pay dues. Twenty-six other states have passed similar laws. The Kentucky bishops have, for many years, expressed concern that these laws ultimately undermine the bargaining power of employees and depress wages. Bishop John Stowe of Lexington submitted written testimony in opposition to HB 1. Despite significant displays of opposition, HB 1 advanced and is also awaiting the governor’s signature.

HB 162 and SB 102 are the school choice proposal long supported by CCK. As the session moves forward, this will be a major focus of our advocacy efforts in Frankfort.

The 30-day session resumes on February 7 and will conclude in late March.

blog,Uncategorized

Pope Francis and School Choice11 Apr

By: Andrew J. VandiverID-10069170

In his apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia (“The Joy of Love”), Pope Francis addressed issues related to marriage and the family. The document has received a great deal of media coverage and it will shape the way that the Church discusses these issues moving forward.  One important section of the exhortation focused on reaffirming the Church’s traditional teaching on the primary role of parents in the area of education.

In Paragraph 84, Pope Francis strongly sets forth that education is the “primary right” of parents. This is not simply a task for the parents to accomplish, but rather an “essential and inalienable right.”  The government’s role is to support the parents in the exercise of this right, not to replace them.  While the government offers educational opportunities, “parents themselves enjoy the right to choose freely the kind of education – accessible and of good quality – which they wish to give their children in accordance with their convictions.”

Pope Francis’ statements on education reflect the moral dimension of the issue of school choice. This is not simply a matter of policy.  Instead, we have to ask ourselves whether the current educational environment in our country supports parents as the primary educators of their children.  Further, does the current environment allow for all parents, not just the affluent, to exercise the fundamental right to “choose a school for their children which corresponds to their own personal convictions.” The Catechism of the Catholic Church (#2229).

It is not enough for policymakers to simply say that parents have the “right” to choose their children’s school without providing concrete conditions necessary for exercise of this right.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church (#2229). In Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship (#72), the U. S. Conference of Catholic Bishops wrote that “Government, through such means as tax credits and publicly funded scholarships, should help provide resources for parents, especially those of modest means, to exercise this basic right without discrimination.”

A majority of states in our country have taken significant steps towards affording educational options to all families. Yet, many states, including Kentucky, still lag behind by not providing any public support for parents in the exercise of this right.  In these states, students are generally sent to a school based on their ZIP Code, which is in turn is often decided by their income. Of course, this is not the case for many students, whose parents’ wealth allows them to choose the public school district that they live within or affords them the opportunity to choose a nonpublic school.

Such disparities cannot persist without causing further damage to our society. Policymakers should heed Pope Francis’ words and create an education system which serves all families.

Andrew J. Vandiver is a lifelong Kentuckian and a convert to Catholicism. Andrew joined the Catholic Conference of Kentucky as Associate Director after working several years as a private practice attorney.

blog

Putting Families First – HB 336 and SB 4405 Feb

The 2016 Regular Session of the General Assembly is entering its second month.  Though many issues are of importance to us as Catholics, today I urge you to take action on two bills that would help provide families with ID-10069170more options when it comes to their children’s education, regardless of their income or ZIP Code.

House Bill 336 and Senate Bill 44 would create a Scholarship Tax Credit Program in Kentucky.  A Scholarship Tax Credit program would increase financial assistance to families who wish to send their children to a nonpublic school, including Catholic schools.  The legislation ensures that all students have the opportunity to obtain the education they deserve at a school that best suits their educational needs.

PLEASE CALL the Legislative Message Line at 1-800-372-7181 (1-866-840-6574 for Spanish) and urge your State Representative to co-sponsor House Bill 336 and Senator to co-sponsor Senate Bill 44 (the operator on the line will assist you in getting the message to the correct Representative and Senator).

House Bill 336 is sponsored by Rep. Tommy Thompson (D-14), Rep. Larry Clark (D-46), Rep. Fitz Steele (D-84), Rep. Dennis Keene (D-67), Rep. Russ Meyer (D-39), Rep Terry Mills (D-24), Rep. Dennis Horlander (D-40), Rep. Brad Montell (R-58), Rep. Sal Santoro (R-60), Rep. James Tipton (R-53), and Rep. Addia Wuchner (R-66). Senate Bill 44 is sponsored by Sen. Ralph Alvardo (R-28), Sen. John Schickel (R-11), Sen. Max Wise (R-16), Sen. Julie Raque Adams (R-36), and Sen. Joe Bowen (R-8).  If you live in their districts, be sure to thank them for their support.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (#2229) teaches the following:

  • Parents have the right to choose a school for their children which corresponds to their own personal convictions;
  • This right is fundamental; and
  • Public authorities have the duty of guaranteeing this parental right and ensuring concrete conditions for its exercise.

In Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship (#72) our U. S. Conference of Catholic Bishops have written:

Government, through such means as tax credits…should help provide resources for parents, especially those of modest means, to exercise this basic right without discrimination.

 

Latest news

The U.S. Supreme Court and School Choice
The U.S. Supreme Court is set to consider a case that could have a major impact on school choice programs across the country.  The case, Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia v. Comer, deals with whether a church-run preschool can be excluded from a Missouri program that provides funding for rubberized surface material for children’s playgrounds.  The […]

Scholarship Tax Credits for KY Families
  The first week of the 2017 Regular Session of the Kentucky General Assembly wrapped up on Saturday with the passage of several bills.  HB 162 was filed by House Education Committee Chairman Bam Carney and SB 102 was filed by Senator Ralph Alvarado.  SB 102 was co-sponsored by Senate Education Committee Chairman Mike Wilson […]

Connect