Bishops Back Trump’s Plan for Parental Choice of Schools

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by Bradley Eli, M.Div., Ma.Th.  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  February 6, 2020   

Affirm that parents have right to choose children's schools

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WASHINGTON (ChurchMilitant.com) - The U.S. bishops are supporting President Donald Trump's plan to let parents choose where to school their children.

During Tuesday's State of the Union Address, Trump asked Congress to pass his tax credit scholarship plan, which authorizes states to funnel nearly $5 billion dollars towards private and religious schools.

No parent should be forced to send their child to a failing government school.

"Pass the Education Freedom Scholarships and Opportunity Act," Trump urged, "because no parent should be forced to send their child to a failing government school."

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) came out Wednesday in support of Trump's initiative with a positive statement from its Education Committee. The statement affirmed the fundamental role of parents in educating their children.

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In its letter, the USCCB reiterated a statement lifted from its own 2005 document titled "Renewing our Commitment to Catholic Elementary and Secondary Schools in the Third Millennium":

As the primary educators of their children, parents have the right to choose the school best suited for their children. The entire Catholic community should be encouraged to advocate for parental school choice and personal and corporate tax credits, which will help parents to fulfill their responsibility in educating their children.

During his address, Trump emphasized the failure of public education. 

"For too long, countless American children have been trapped in failing government schools," observed Trump. "To rescue these students, 18 states have created school choice in the form of opportunity scholarships."

Parents have the right to choose the school best suited for their children.

The White House asserts its school choice plan will create "a $5 billion annual tax credit for donations to state-based, locally controlled scholarships." This plan, it holds, will "give 1 million children the freedom to attend a school of their choice."

In a nutshell, the plan allows corporations and individuals to donate to a private scholarship organization, which in turn issues scholarships to students attending their school of choice. In return, the entity or person is taxed less based on the amount of individual contributions.

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Besty DeVos

The bishops affirmed this plan in Wednesday's letter.

"We applaud the goals of Education Freedom Scholarships and hope to one day see the opportunity for all families to have the freedom to select a school according to their conscience," said the bishops.

While U.S. bishops are typically hostile to Trump's initiatives, their support of Trump's backing of private schools is somewhat self-serving. Freeing up potential tax revenue before it is paid allows Catholic schools to be potential recipients of these funds that would otherwise go to public schools.

The bishops, nevertheless, touted the perennial Catholic teaching that parents exercise the primary role in the education of their children.

"The right of parents to exercise freedom of choice in education is firmly rooted in the teachings of our Catholic faith," stated the bishops. 

And statistics show why parents may be concerned about the state of public schools, according to Trump's Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. Commenting on Trump's address, DeVos related that public schools aren't effectively educating children.

"We know all too well that too many students can't read or do basic math at the level they should," she said. "In fact, one in four eighth-graders is functionally illiterate. President Trump is ensuring these forgotten students are forgotten no more."

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