A common refrain heard in election victory speeches has been a promise to come together; to serve all constituents, regardless of party. As families across America continue to struggle through economic strife that only promises to get worse, lawmakers in Washington, D.C. and state houses around the country can provide relief to the middle class, while simultaneously enhancing education by once and for all passing parental school choice legislation.
Recent post-pandemic national test scores have emerged, showing once again, a drop in proficiency in English Language Arts (ELA) and math among government school students across America. The ensuing conversation cannot help but acknowledge that Catholic schools saw no such declines, no profound learning loss. Why? We were open for in-person learning because we put children first.
Not only were we back in the classrooms by September 2020, but we also took the opportunity to double down on the personalized learning that defines Catholic schools. Assessing each student, identifying where they are and where they are ready to go next, combined with modern technology and blended learning practices, prevented the learning loss so many other institutions experienced. In fact, our Archdiocesan Catholic schools saw a 7% increase in the all-important English Language Arts (ELA) test scores. And to think, so many more children across New York state could be right there with our Catholic school students, moving forward, instead of catching up. All it would take is a little courage on the part of legislators to give all parents a choice.
Parental school choice makes Catholic schools an option for all. Here in the Archdiocese of New York, we are passionate about continuing our mission - teaching children of all faiths – and simultaneously fulfilling a public service at a fraction of the $30,000 per pupil expense of the New York City school system.
Lawmakers in New York and across the land should put the interests of parents and children first by adopting parental school choice programs such as scholarship tax credits and education savings accounts. This would inject greater equality of opportunity in education for all children by providing access to Catholic and other private education that are currently the purview of mostly upper-income families. It would save taxpayer money as more children accessed lower-cost, higher-quality education outside expensive urban public school systems, many of which are hemorrhaging students whose families are fleeing to the suburbs and beyond.
Many parents seek out and welcome the faith-based education and academic rigor offered by our 170 Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of New York, which educate more than 55,000 students. Our goal here is to ensure that no child is denied a Catholic school education due to financial constraints. Thanks to our generous friends and benefactors, we can offer financial assistance to many of our families, but we simply do not have the funds to help everyone.
Parental school choice programs are a wise investment in our future. Catholic schools of the Archdiocese of New York (where being of the Catholic faith is not required) graduate 99% of seniors, of whom 98% are accepted to college or post-secondary education.
This education status quo in America is not working for far too many children, which is unfair to their parents and should be unacceptable to our elected officials. We urge our newly elected representatives everywhere to offer parental school choice for the future of all our students. It is the right thing to do for American families.