I’m writing this with a lot of reservations about even touching this topic. As a disclaimer, I feel it only fair to let those that read this know that I am Catholic. My faith is very personal to me, and I don’t go around shining my light in everyone’s faces. Like many things, I’m private and quiet about it. I’m also not trying to be a trouble maker here. Basically, I’m very uncomfortable writing this.
However, I’m coming at this as a public education teacher who is Catholic. When I read a headline about the Archbishop of Oklahoma City supporting ESA (educational savings accounts or vouchers), I was to say the least shocked. I couldn’t understand how this could be.
How can Archbishop Coakley be supportive of a plan that will take funding away from public education? Public education makes sure that all children get an education, no matter what disadvantages they come to school with. Whether they have a learning disability, speak little to no English, or have problems at home, public schools will accept them all and do its ever-loving best to educate them all. Private schools can pick and choose their students. They don’t have to provide the same services that public education is required to.
He says it’s all about “options” and supporting “school choice”. Parents have those options and choices now. If they cannot afford a Catholic school tuition, there is a scholarship to help with the costs to make it “affordable to all Catholic parents; including the poor and middle class”. I’m sure there are other private schools that offer scholarships as well to help those that can’t afford their tuition get a chance to attend their schools. Taking money away from public education, which is already severely financially strapped, is not the answer to helping some families pay for their choice to send their child to a private school. Public schools = public funds. Private schools = private funds.
Maybe there aren’t any (or very few) strings attached for schools that accept ESAs right now, but who’s to say that will last? The state loves to change its mind on a whim and could take that invisible string and turn it into a slowly tightening noose around the necks of those schools that accept ESAs. Why would the Archbishop risk having the state make mandates on any Catholic school that would accept vouchers? One preacher in the metro has already sounded the alarm on this.
Sadly, I’m not in agreement with Archbishop Coakley when it comes to ESA. It’s not ever easy for me to be in disagreement with the leadership of the Catholic faith. I truly believe that ESAs will cause more harm than good. It will negatively affect all in public education, which in turn negatively affects our community and state. It does not help “to build a stronger, more solid foundation” for Oklahoma.