What is the reason you are supporting school choice? Is it to give yourself a tax break so that you can have more money to spend? I often hear people talk about school choice supporters cite an injustice issue. “We pay taxes for schools we don’t attend,” they say. But couldn’t the same argument be made by childless couples and retirees? Doesn’t this line of argument also support privatizing social security and health care not to mention eliminating the EPA? What about the common good? Doesn’t it serve the common good to give the best possible education to poor students? I believe in our Catholic schools as a proven success system for elevating the poor to greater opportunities.
Is it possible to be for school choice and for the common good? In yesterday’s “Catholic School Matters” podcast, Greg Dolan from the USCCB and I suggested a path forward. If school choice issues center on providing more seats for poor students, then school choice could serve the common good. No one can argue that ever public school is broken. Likewise, no one can argue that our public school system serves our poor students well. It’s well-established that where you live correlates with the quality of your school.
Proposals for school choice—whether that is tax-credit scholarships or even vouchers—that include relief and opportunities for poor students address the concern for the common good. Opponents of these programs are not seeking the common good. Rather, they are only seeking to protect the systems in place and, ultimately, their own jobs.
This is why I support school choice. Not to give my parents and Catholic school supporters tax relief, not to simply upend the public school system. It is to give our poor students more opportunities and a path forward to a better life. Pope Francis calls us to create a church centered on serving the margins. Then we’ll be serving the common good.
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