blog

School Choice and the Constitution11 Dec

Capitol DomeOne common concern with regard to school choice legislation is that it will violate the U.S. Constitution by enabling children to attend religiously affiliated schools.  While this concern is understandable, the U.S. Supreme Court has rejected arguments that school choice legislation amounts to an unlawful entanglement between church and state.  Specifically, the U.S. Supreme Court recently dismissed an attack on a tuition assistance tax credit similar to the one proposed under Kentucky House Bill 141.  Challenges to tax credits under state constitutions have met this same result and it is expected that the Kentucky Supreme Court would reach a similar conclusion.

Even though tax credits have been upheld under the U.S. Constitution, and state high courts have followed suit, there are still some who are skeptical of private school choice.  For many, this is based on the notion that the government should not take any actions which would enable a child to attend a religiously affiliated school.  However, there are a couple of facts that should be considered by individuals holding this viewpoint.

First and foremost, tuition assistance tax credits support school choice for parents rather than promoting religion.  The educational needs of children are of central importance.  Thus, while most children will do well within a public school setting, others unique needs require that their parents look elsewhere.  Whether the school that best meets their needs is religious or secular is secondary.  We know from extensive studies on the topic that school choice improves academic outcomes.  It is clear that when parents have the right to choose, children win.

Second, public assistance for religiously affiliated schools has a long history in the United States.   Unfortunately, this relationship was interrupted by a rise in nativism during the late 19th century.  Led by Senator James Blaine of Maine, there was a popular movement to amend the U.S. Constitution in order prohibit aid to religiously affiliated schools due to a fear that Catholic immigrants would want government funding for their parochial schools.  Of course, the supporters of this movement were not attempting to remove religion from education.  Nondenominational Protestantism would have remained securely entrenched in public education even if the amendment was successful.  The proposal was merely intended to marginalize Catholic education.  Although Senator Blaine’s efforts were ultimately unsuccessful at the federal level, many states followed his lead and adopted constitutional prohibitions with regard to funding for “sectarian schools” (a/k/a Catholic schools). These amendments are commonly known as “Blaine Amendments.”  Fortunately, some courts have recently recognized this dark moment in our nation’s history for what it was and have not been inclined to strike down tuition assistance tax credit legislation.

In conclusion, there is neither a constitutional nor a historical basis for rejecting tuition assistance tax credit legislation.  Kentuckians are free to adopt this important legislation in order to ensure that all families have a choice when it comes to their children’s education.

blog

Attend a Catholics @ the Capitol Event in Your Area!30 Nov

UPDATE: The December 14 even in Edmonton is at 1:00 Central Time, not 2:00 as originally stated. The list below has been corrected.

As we prepare to begin the 2015 legislative session, each diocese will be hosting at least one Catholics @ the Capitol regional event. Each event is a chance to learn about CCK’s legislative agenda and to interact with local legislators, who are also invited to attend. Make plans today to attend one near you. Below is a complete schedule of events. All times are local.

December 2  -  7:00 pm  -  St. John the Apostle, 515 Broadway, Brandenburg

December 14  -  1:00 pm  -  Christ the Healer, 1610 W. Stockton St., Edmonton

January 10, 2015  -  9:30 am  -  Our Lady of Lourdes, 4029 Frederica St., Owensboro

January 10  -  10:00 am  -  St. Catharine College, Pettus Auditorium

January 14  -  4:00 pm  -  St. Raphael the Archangel, 2900 Bardstown Rd., Louisville

January 17  -  9:30 am  -  Sts. Peter & Paul, 902 E. Ninth St., Hopkinsville

January 24  -  9:00 am  -  Jesus Our Savior, 315 Battson Oates Drive, Morehead

January 24  -  1:00 pm  -  Sts. Francis & John, 604 E. Main St., Georgetown

January 31  -  9:30 am  -  Bishop Howard Memorial Auditorium, Curia Office, 1125 Madison Ave., Covington

blog

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

blog

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?

blog

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.

Latest news

School Choice and the Constitution
One common concern with regard to school choice legislation is that it will violate the U.S. Constitution by enabling children to attend religiously affiliated schools.  While this concern is understandable, the U.S. Supreme Court has rejected arguments that school choice legislation amounts to an unlawful entanglement between church and state.  Specifically, the U.S. Supreme Court […]

Attend a Catholics @ the Capitol Event in Your Area!
UPDATE: The December 14 even in Edmonton is at 1:00 Central Time, not 2:00 as originally stated. The list below has been corrected. As we prepare to begin the 2015 legislative session, each diocese will be hosting at least one Catholics @ the Capitol regional event. Each event is a chance to learn about CCK’s legislative […]

Connect