By Dr. Samuel Torres
Have you ever thought about what happens to all the tax money collected from you that is spent on education? If you have, you may have also asked yourself why you have not had the opportunity to decide how these dollars were directed for your children.
U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos said recently at the Catholic Leadership Summit, “Families should be able to send their children to a school that reflects their values.” Do you think California should engage in the same School Choice options as 18 other states?
I’d like to give you a glimpse of what some of these options are because our Catholic school tuition continues to rise, and we should all be thinking about and engaging in creative ways to support their viability for our families. I have written often about how important our Catholic schools are in the formation of faith and citizenship. All of which are the responsibility of Catholics regardless of age. Consider that our government is continually adding components to public education that are not in line with our Catholic values and inserting these elements into curriculum at younger ages. At what point do we challenge ourselves to become vocal about this? Could it be in an election, a conversation or personal action plan that includes monetary support for a child?
The National Conference of State Legislatures reports that 18 states offer various types of scholarship tax credit write-offs. There is a school choice bill before Congress recommended by Senator Marco Rubio and former Congressman Todd Rokita that would allow a $4,500.00 tax credit for a student. This would shift the focus of control for educational credits from state to federal government. Secretary DeVos is in favor of the school choice proposal to ensure all states, and therefore all parents, receive the right to choose schools that best reflect their values. Families who normally do not gravitate towards Catholic schools because of cost would then have a financial credit that would lead to choosing the school of their choice.
Our taxes currently pay for public education that includes significant Title funding to provide resources for students in public schools. Most of us are pleased that our tax dollars support students of need in various areas. Most of us would also appreciate that some of those tax dollars be used to support children who are better served in a Catholic school environment. According to the NCEA, Catholic schools nationwide save the public school system over $ 21 billion annually.
EdVoice is an organization advocating for measurable data to understand classroom experiences in California. They report that every student has a Constitutional right to be able to read. It’s hard to imagine that 3 million of California’s 6.2 million public school students can’t read at grade level. Where this data does not highlight the many students served well in California public schools, it is projecting a dim view of what many students will face beyond the classroom. This data also suggests that our parents need options in educating their children.
According to the Pew Charitable Trust’s Economic Mobility Project, a family’s circumstances and school ranking are the most significant factors impacting a child’s development and well-being. These two factors are closely linked in determining their quality of life. In looking at how pursuing a higher quality of life influences trajectory, we could also consider the impact of cultural and spiritual opportunities that build and support community life. Schools have the immense responsibility of using 1,400 hours a year to prepare children for the rigors of life.
In understanding how we can support the children in our care, we turn to the Blessed Mother and pray for her intercession and guidance in this important time. Educating ourselves on this issue, and all matters impacting the youth of our communities, requires staying informed of the ever-changing landscape that seeks to diminish our parents as primary educators and decision makers for their children. If you have children or yours are grown, I invite you to support our Catholic school parents of today, who are sacrificing to send their children to our Catholic schools. Please pray with me as I lead our Catholic schools in providing a positive experience in our Diocese. I value our partnership as we move forward together in protecting the rights of our parents as the primary educators of their children. You can send your thoughts and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. Together, we can partner to provide the best educational experience for children whose parents are choosing to send them to our Catholic schools.
Dr. Samuel Torres is Superintendant for Catholic Schools in the Diocese of San Bernardino.