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Archdiocese of Louisville Expands School Choice13 Nov

KurtzSchoolChoiceDuring a press conference on November 6, 2014, the Archdiocese of Louisville announced its new Catholic elementary school plan which will effectively double the tuition aid available to families.  The goal is to expand the availability of Catholic education to those who might otherwise lack the financial means to pay full tuition.  This is great news and will serve to enhance educational opportunities for children living within the Archdiocese.  The benefits associated with a Catholic education are proven.

As noted by Archbishop Kurtz at the press conference, the expansion of tuition assistance within the Archdiocese is part of a larger plan for opening up educational opportunities for families across the Commonwealth.  The Catholic Conference of Kentucky is strengthening efforts to pass a statewide tuition assistance tax credit program.  The tax credit would encourage individuals and businesses to contribute to organizations which provide tuition assistance to families who desire to send their children to nonpublic schools.  Most importantly, similar programs in other states have improved educational outcomes and saved taxpayers’ money.

The Archdiocese of Louisville has taken an important step towards expanding educational opportunities for a substantial number of children.  However, there is still a great deal of work to be done in order to make school choice a reality for all families.  Please contact your elected officials and urge them to pass a tuition assistance tax credit.

Photo Credit: The Record newspaper

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School Choice in Kentucky: Location, Location, Location03 Nov

A recent survey by the Lexington-Bluegrass Association of Realtors found that an overwhelming majority of Fayette ID-10069170County registered voters say that the quality of local schools is an important factor when choosing a home.  This is not surprising and the results would likely be the same throughout the Commonwealth.  Yet, one must wonder if this is the best way for parents to exercise their fundamental right to choose a school for their children.

Unfortunately, many lower income families are being priced out of a quality education.  This is because a family has to pay more for houses in highly rated school districts compared with homes in neighborhoods where the schools have lower ratings and test results.  The difference can range from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars. While some parents have the financial means to purchase a home in a school district that meets their child’s needs, many do not.

We hear a great deal about inequality in our political debates.  However, these debates fail to focus on one of the greatest sources of inequality in our midst; namely, few parents are able to choose the school that best meets their child’s educational needs.  As previously discussed, this is not a problem that the Commonwealth can simply throw money at in order to make it go away.  The Kentucky General Assembly will need to think outside of the box.

A tuition assistance tax credit is a proven method for expanding school choice to all families regardless of their ZIP Code.  In Georgia, which has such a program, parents across the economic spectrum have been able to choose a nonpublic education when they were unsatisfied with the public school in their district.  One survey found that 98.6 percent of these parents were either “very satisfied” or “satisfied” with the decision to send their children to a nonpublic school using a tuition assistance scholarship.

This begs the question: Why hasn’t Kentucky adopted a tuition assistance tax credit?

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Nonpublic Schools Hold Key to Resolving Education Budget Cuts20 Oct

new study by the Washington-based Center on Budget and Policy Priorities revealed that Kentucky has cut per-studentandy investment in K-12 schools by 11.4 percent between 2008 and 2015 after accounting for inflation.  This problem is especially significant in poorer school districts, which have been unable to make up for lost funding with local resources.

Failing to adequately invest in our students will lead to the Commonwealth falling further behind other states when it comes to ensuring that future generations are prepared to enter the workforce.  Yet, finding additional funding in the current economy will be difficult.  As a result, the Kentucky General Assembly will need to think outside of the box.  One part of the solution will be for legislators to look to Kentucky’s nonpublic schools.

Catholic and other nonpublic schools are currently educating more than 70,000 students, saving Kentucky taxpayers approximately $700 million per school year, or $1.4 billion every budget biennium. Imagine legislators trying to find an additional $1.4 billion to fund public education.

The Catholic Conference of Kentucky supports legislation that would further expand the important role of nonpublic schools in filling the funding gap.  During this past session, Rep. Terry Mills and Rep. David Floyd sponsored House Bill 141.  The bill would have created a public-private partnership for funding education.  Unfortunately, House Bill 141 did not receive the attention that it deserved.  Nevertheless, the Catholic Conference of Kentucky is confident that, with your help, this important legislation will pass in 2016.  This may seem like a long time from now, but the conversation must start today if we want to ensure that this opportunity does not slip away again.  The stakes are simply too high.

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Immigration, Amnesty, and the Rule of Law13 Oct

In the ongoing U.S. Senate race, both candidates have accused the other of supporting “amnesty” for “illegal immigrants” and of not upholding the rule of law. Immigration is a complex issue, and the laws governing it are even more complex. Political campaigns, at least in our day, are not well-suited to serious debates about complex policy questions. Accusations are made against seemingly everyone, including the U.S. Catholic Bishops, of ignoring national secImm Mak Amer Strongurity or seeking to undermine the moral and legal order

What are the facts?

To begin, it is important to point out that no one these days is really talking about “amnesty.” Granting amnesty means wiping the slate clean and automatically granting some form of legal status. All proposals for immigration reform that have been seriously considered in the last decade reject amnesty in favor of an earned path to citizenship.

What is the difference? An earned path to citizenship involves a recognition that a person is in an irregular legal situation and perhaps even committed a federal crime by entering the country in violation of the law. A just penalty is imposed, along with other requirements, such as additional fines, demonstrated progress in learning English, and a waiting period so that being in the country already is not an advantage over those seeking to immigrate from the same countries. The bill that passed the U.S. Senate in 2013 took this approach, along with an additional initial waiting period while border enforcement was enhanced. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops supports this idea, provided the conditions are not so onerous as to make them impossible for many to comply with.

Perhaps the greatest misunderstanding one encounters in the general population is the idea that anyone can immigrate legally, as long as he or she fills out the proper forms and waits a reasonable time for approval. This is simply not the case. Congress has enacted a system of annual visa quotas for various countries that are often so insufficient that an applicant may encounter a wait of many years, in some cases even decades.

The U.S. Bishops do not support, as some charge, an “open border” where there is no legal enforcement and where national security is ignored. It is a principle of Catholic teaching on migration that countries have a right and a duty to appropriately secure their borders. What the bishops do support is a comprehensive reform of the legal immigration process that is focused on providing safe haven for those in extreme hardship, as well as those seeking to be reunited with their families. In addition, to the extent the economic and security situation allows, people have a right to migrate to seek a better life for themselves and their families. Historically, few nations have embraced this final principle more fully than the United States. We are a nation of immigrants and a land of opportunity. We must never lose that aspect of our identity.

One of the most divisive immigration issues of the past year has been the arrival of tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors from Central America. Some argue that it is imperative we send all of these kids home. Yet, it is this position that ignores the rule of law. The truth is that many of these children have a legal claim to entry into the United States. And, of course, many do not. What the bishops have advocated for is not a blanket amnesty, but for the resources required to provide each child a legal hearing, with representation, to determine their status under the law. Those who have a valid claim would then be granted legal status. That is how legal immigration works.

The immigration issue is far too complex to cover in a single blog post. To explore further, please visit justiceforimmigrants.org. Justice for Immigrants is the immigration advocacy organization founded by the U.S. Bishops to support immigration reform during the Bush administration. Because that work remains undone, JFI has continued to work and is a wonderful resource.

In summary, it is important to remember that human dignity and the importance of the family are not principles that only apply when the federal government decides to issue a piece of paper. The justice of our immigration system is determined by how often these principles are respected and how often they are not. There is nothing sacrosanct about current immigration law. It can be improved to better reflect our values, and so it should.

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New Speeches and Homilies Being Added to CCK Website01 Oct

The Public Witness page of the CCK website features numerous speeches, homilies, letters, and testimony from the bishops and CCK staff on a wide range of issues over the past several years. Two new items have recently been added.

Archbishop Kurtz, in his capacity as president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, delivered the homily at the closing Mass for the Fortnight for Freedom on July 4.

Also available is the keynote address from the National Migration Conference, which was discussed in the most recent issue of WITNESS, the CCK Newsletter. The address was given by Cardinal Óscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga, Archbishop of Tegucigalpa.

Latest news

Archdiocese of Louisville Expands School Choice
During a press conference on November 6, 2014, the Archdiocese of Louisville announced its new Catholic elementary school plan which will effectively double the tuition aid available to families.  The goal is to expand the availability of Catholic education to those who might otherwise lack the financial means to pay full tuition.  This is great […]

School Choice in Kentucky: Location, Location, Location
A recent survey by the Lexington-Bluegrass Association of Realtors found that an overwhelming majority of Fayette County registered voters say that the quality of local schools is an important factor when choosing a home.  This is not surprising and the results would likely be the same throughout the Commonwealth.  Yet, one must wonder if this […]

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