Go Wichita - Save the Catholic Schools - William J Bennett


Go Wichita

WILLIAM J. BENNETT****Save the Catholic schools.

One of the notable events of Pope Benedict’s recent visit to the United States was his address to Catholic educators. While he focused most of his comments on the role of the Catholic University, he did not forget to remind us of the need to recommit to our Catholic elementary and secondary schools, “especially those in poorer areas.” And as President Bush is set to convene a summit on inner-city children and faith-based schools this week, it is worth reflecting on the decimation of America’s urban Catholic primary and secondary schools and what can be done about it.





Good article with many interesting points, such as the cost to taxpayers when Catholic schools close. I like Bill Bennet and think he has a heart for children’s education, but I don’t quite know what to make of this article. As the secretary of education, Bill Bennet had/has more influence than many of us. I agree that closing Catholic schools is a tragedy. I appreciate what Wichita has shown in the way of tithing to fund Catholic schools. Mandatory “tithing” is sort of what we do in a way for public schools already–everyone has to pay for public schools through taxes because they are deemed to be in the public interest. If Catholics determined Catholic school to be in our best interest, Catholic schools would be funded.

The Catholic school system in America formed primarily because the bishops told parishes to start schools since public schools used to teach Protestantism. When secularism replaced Protestantism in public schools, apparently many bishops and Catholics found that less threatening. It good to hear the Pope remind us of the threat of secularism and the value of Catholic schools. (It’s also good that the Pope reminded Catholic schools to be Catholic.)

It’s interesting that Bill Bennet is a product of Catholic schools and that he sent his own children to Catholic schools. He is also very involved with public schools, having served as Secretary of Education and recently having helped create some public charter schools that use internet technology to publically educate children at home. Funding of Catholic schools through vouchers might help save Catholic schools, but little progress has ever been made towards vouchers in the United States.

I love the Wichita example, but it isn’t an example of successful vouchers. It is an example of Catholics valuing Catholic education enough to fund it for each other. Vouchers or no-vouchers, the more Catholics support Catholic education, the more affordale Catholic education becomes for families. When more Catholic children attend private of parochially funded Catholic schools, ultimately we pay less for public education. As those school close or become otherwise unaffordable, the cost to the public usually goes up. Catholic children usually attend public schools now, although a few attend Catholic schools or homeschool.

I don’t live in Wichita, and without good affordable Catholic schools, the Catholic education of children–whether homeschooled or public schooled–falls mainly on the parents who don’t recieve much community support for their Catholicism as was found in the hay-days of Catholic schools. With that written, I need to go homeschool my children.


I’m not convinced the Wichita model will survive IRS scrutiny. Current rules require all charitable giving over a certain small value to be acknowledged with a receipt from the charity that affirms “no goods or services were received in exchange for this donation.” How exactly do the Wichita diocese parishes provide such a receipt with a clean conscience? The taxman cometh.

Bennett touches on IMO the REAL way forward to vouchers but doesn’t see the final answer. He grasps the fact that continued catholic school closures are costing public school systems BILLIONS in additional enrollment, but voucher advocates never build on that.

What we need to do is some serious study and math to determine a voucher level that actually has the long term effect of INCREASING the public school funding level per public school student. Current voucher efforts focus on getting ALL of the tuition paid for. Bad idea because public school advocats see it as a threat to their funding.

Say a local public school district has 25,000 kids and spends $10,000 each on average. (my local district spends more!). In the district, there are two catholic schools with a total enrollment of 350 kids. As usual, those schools are struggling to keep enrollment and COULD house 500 kids easily with 28 kid classes. If nothing is done and those schools eventually close, the public school will absorb another $3,500,000 in costs with NO additional tax base to get it from. On the other hand, if that district offered a $1,500 voucher program to parents who used the local private schools and those two schools surged to full 500 kid enrollment, the district will be paying out $750,000 to private school parents, but saving ((500-350)* $10,000) - $750,000 = **$750,000 **in the process!

You heard it here first folks! The public schools could ENHANCE their overall funding by offering modest vouchers to private school parents. The fact that public schools are universally opposed to the very concept proves that funding is NOT their primary concern regarding vouchers. Pride is. They HATE being consistently shown up by private schools and WANT them stomped out, even if it really isn’t in their own best financial interest.


The only way it’s an IRS issue is if the donation is made in exchange for services - ie a tuition bill.

If you contribute to the school or parish then it allowed.


I agree with this. They do not want competition.

I think the most interesting part of the Bennett article is (and I don’t have the exact quote) where he states that the key to funding is for the Pastor of the parish to promote it. While our Pastor here has resolved not to try to close the school, he does not promote it, either. I think that would make all the difference in our efforts. In the meantime, he is extremely frustrated with our Religious Ed. It needs a complete overhaul. So in times where our school is teaching our faith very successfully and the Religious Ed is not, you’d think he’d do more to promote the school.


And those families with children in the school certainly receive services in return for their tithing. If you could dodge the IRS with such a simple shell game everybody would be doing it.


But the tithing wouldn’t be just for the Catholic school - isn’t it going into a pot and then all the different programs of the church are being funded? Are we taxed when we give in the collection and then “get” a church to attend Mass in? What about when there is new construction? When a new building goes up are we taxed on that? And do public school parents pay tax on the education they receive? I don’t know how laws in this instance are written because I know they are not always “fair” but it just doesn’t seem at all consistent to me.


I heard Pastor’s say they won’t promote the school at the risk of offending public school parents.


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