National School Choice Week Resonates at ACE
The Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) is marking National School Choice Week, which spans January 22-28, 2012.
Rooted in Catholic Social Teaching, ACE supports school choice policies, also called parental choice policies, that give all children effective options for obtaining a high-quality education.
Official Church teaching has repeatedly and consistently reaffirmed the vital importance of Catholic schools and school choice. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches, "Parents have the right to choose a school for them which corresponds to their own personal convictions." The Catechism adds that "public authorities have the duty of guaranteeing this parental right and ensuring concrete conditions for its exercise" (CCC #2229).
As part of our support for principles of school choice, ACE's Program for K-12 Educational Access (PEA) is dedicated to empowering low-income families with access to a quality education, with a particular focus on parochial schools. PEA advances educational access through teaching, research, and outreach, and it seeks to cultivate data-driven, parent-centered education reform.
The Notre Dame ACE Academy initiative, currently operating innovative, in-depth partnerships with three Catholic schools in the Diocese of Tucson, strives to remove the cost barrier for families whenever possible. As a result of Arizona's parental choice policies, allowing scholarships funded by tax credits, Notre Dame ACE Academies can provide tuition assistance to families facing financial hardship.
During the past year, the state of Indiana—where ACE is headquartered as an initiative of the University of Notre Dame—has been a center of action on school choice through a new voucher program.
The Indiana Choice Scholarship Program experienced unprecedented success in 2011. National experts indicate this is the most successful first year implementation in the history of the parental choice movement. More than 3,900 students across the state have received Choice Scholarships, and more than 2,500 of those are now attending Catholic schools. The new program's benefits were most deeply felt by the families facing economic struggles, as 85% of voucher recipients qualify for free or reduced-cost school lunch.
Support for the principles of school choice, or parental choice, finds affirmation in Catholic thought.
In 1965, the Second Vatican Council's Declaration on Christian Education stated: "The public power, which has the obligation to protect and defend the rights of citizens, must see to it, in its concern for distributive justice, that public subsidies are paid out in such a way that parents are truly free to choose according to their conscience that schools they want for their children."
In 1987, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith expressly communicated that "whenever the State lays claim to an educational monopoly, it oversteps its rights and offends justice.... The State cannot dwithout injustice merely tolerate so-called private school. Such schools render a public service to civil society and therefore have a right to financial assistance."
The 2004 Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church focused attention on the lack of public funding for non-public schools: "The refusal to provide public economic support to non-public schools that need assistance and that render a service to civil society is to be considered an injustice."
Pope Benedict XVI, in a 2008 Address to Catholic Educators, declared: "Everything possible must be done, in cooperation with the wider community, to ensure that [Catholic schools] are accessible to people of all social and economic strata. No child should be denied his or her right to an education in faith, which in turn nurtures the soul of a nation."
You can find out more about the official events and messages accompanying National School Choice Week at http://schoolchoiceweek.com.