Monday, July 09, 2007

Cleveland Vouchers and Catholic Schools

Today's Beacon Journal runs an AP story about the Cleveland voucher program and Catholic schools in the Cleveland Diocese. Here's the meat of it:

    More than 80 percent of students in at least seven Catholic elementary schools in Cleveland use vouchers to attend.

    Vouchers have kept Catholic school classrooms filled with students, but the program is still not enough to cover the cost of sending a student to a diocese-run school, said Margaret Lyons, superintendent of the Cleveland diocese's schools.
A few take-aways. First, as I mentioned before, Catholic schools were lobbying hard for special ed vouchers. This is why. I don't think they were looking at educating the profoundly handicapped kids who drain school resources, but were looking at dyslexic and ADD kids and the money they would bring in.

If I were a conservative I'd be concerned about an institution becoming dependent on government spending. Voucher programs are creating new constituencies whose activity may ultimately lead to more, not less government spending on education.

As for this liberal, in principle I'm not against giving kids in schools full of dead-enders a chance at a better education. But I have grave concerns about the church-state implications. Make no mistake, the government is subsidizing Catholic education. Catholic theology is so embedded in the curriculum that simply excusing kids from attending religion classes does little to change things.

And of course I have concerns about whether the truly needy kids are the ones getting the vouchers. The available data says they are not.

9 comments:

Eric said...

Catholic theology is so embedded in the curriculum that simply excusing kids from attending religion classes does little to change things.

Examples being:
1. They teach evolution
2. Instruction is ... informed by a generous conception of democratic life.
3. School climate reflects "an inspirational ideology."
4. Tom Paine's gloss on the Enlightenment is typically omitted. (As opposed to omitting TJ's retraction of support for the French Revolution, typically done in public--government--schools.)

The irony being that a public school which fails to exhibit these qualities ought to be denied funds raised by taxes for a "thorough and efficient" system of public schools. Interesting that school discipline is grounded on in loco parentis, but religious schools that act in place of parents are suspect even when meeting the state's high constitutional standards.

Les said...

The truth is that private, Catholic schools provide a better education that today's public schools. Vouchers or not, there is a demand for their services. This admittedly liberal reporter (surprise, surprise)is attempting to make much out of nothing.

Dave said...

Pho , You must be a product of government education. For a free and factual History lesson , read Stephen Mansfield's Ten Tortured Words.

Pho said...

Eric:

Agreed, Catholic education has its merits. But paying for Catholic education means among other things paying for religious instruction. That's the point I wrestle with.

Dave:

Lordamighty, is it possible for a conservative to debate education without resorting to the "you went to public schools" blast? I thought Republican elitism was out of fashion -- at least that's what Ann Coulter says.

It's possible for me to disagree with your position without being actually stupid or uneducated. If you can't work with that, you've wandered into the wrong blog.

For the record, public K-12, private college, public law school.

dave said...

That's not my point . I also graduated from a government school.Only after my first year in college did I realize that I wasn't always given the facts. I'm not trying to be smart. I believe that there a lot of students out there ( like I was ) that believed I was given the facts all the time in school. My point is that we need to reseach more than ever.

dave said...

One more point. My mother's side of the family is from the deep south. They have all their degrees hanging on the wall. They still believe the south won the civil war. That's what they were taught all along. I can't even reson with them on the subject. Do you see what I mean.

Eric said...

Oops, I said "government schools" must have been feeling testy...

The point I wrestle with is when compelling state interest trumps in loco parentis applied to voucher schools. Pan-Protestantism in public ed worked for nearly a century. (OK, there were the Philadelphia Bible riots...)
The 60's intervened when we ought to have been understanding how to nurture authentic American pluralism in public schools.

There's a line that needs to be drawn somewhere in the spectrum of potential high school subjects at voucher-supported schools:
1. Eternal rewards of suicide bombing
2. Eternal rewards of shooting satan incarnate
3. Discerning the satanic motivations of people who don't think like us
4. Flood geology
5. The moral imperative of distributive justice
6. Using credit cards responsibly

IMHO the line needs to be one side or the other of 4. However, if the discussion is framed as church-state separation (ACLU-style) the line goes between 5 and 6; but then again, the ACLU lost in Zelman.

Pho said...

Dave:

Now those are solid points. Glad we clarified things. Sorry to get in your grille, but I have little patience for the other version of "you went to government schools."

So disregard my last line. You are welcome here. Get yourself a cup and make yourself at home.

I've been studying the establishment clause for some time and disagree with the "Ten Tortured Words" point of view, at least as I understand it from reviews.

First and foremost, originalism runs aground on the shoals of strict textualism on this one. If, as Mansfield appears to be saying, the original intent was simply to prevent Congress from establishing a national chuch, one would expect the amendment to say that. "Congress shall not establish a national religion" or some such. The words that have supposedly been tortured create a much broader prohibition. Reading "Pass no law respecting the establishment" as conferring a broad prohibition on any law that would have the effect of favoring one religion isn't torturing the language, it is in fact a friendly reading of the words.

Eric said...

Something I don't wrestle with is being quite put out with constitutionally substandard public schools that don't teach kids to read adequately, let alone instill commitment to a nebulous and poorly articulated "civil religion." For the record, here's an account of "Catholic theology embedded in the curriculum." The Operating Standards for Ohio's Schools require benchmarking to determine best practices. Could fear of making a case for vouchers lead public school supporters to deliberately ignore positive school climate in Catholic schools?

Catholic Telegraph Jan 23 2004 (550,000 readers)
Research, write, reflect and act
St. Albert students explore Catholic social teaching

By Maureen Schlangen

When a seventh-grade language arts and reading teacher began to weave the Catholic church's social teaching into her grammar, writing, literature and research curriculum at St. Albert the Great School in Kettering, she wasn't sure the students would grasp the sometimes intellectually challenging tenets.

However, Anne Marie Cardilino's lessons on human dignity, respect for human life, association, participation, preferential protection for the poor and vulnerable, solidarity, stewardship, subsidiarity, equality and common good did not fall upon deaf ears.

Her students did more than understand the concepts; they took action - educating their families and committing to serve others, looking to Christ as their ultimate role model.

"In a Catholic school, we can refer to Jesus and we are encouraged to do this in any setting - not just religion class," Cardilino said. "You can't do that in a public school."

In public schools, she explained, students can be taught good citizenship, and service can be taught as a social responsibility, but for Catholics, it's more than that: It's a moral imperative.

For example, bullying - the use of words or actions to threaten, ostracize or intimidate another person - is simply "against school policy" in most secular school settings. At St. Albert, a seventh-grader could explain that bullying is more than a violation of school policy; it's morally wrong because it's an assault on human dignity - something all humans are entitled to because they were created in the image of God. It's a law that applies to all situations - not just in school.

[I've omitted the remaining discussion of historic deployment challenges, values formation, and service project]