The Fighting Irish

The University of Notre Dame recently announced that it would be welcoming President Obama to speak at its graduation in May. Among the questions that should be asked as President Obama’s speech approaches is how the administration’s views about private school choice—and specifically, the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship program—may conflict with the university’s strong commitment to supporting Catholic education.

Last fall, the Bush administration released a report highlighting the crisis facing faith-based private schools in urban communities. Across the country, roughly 1,000 Catholic schools have closed per decade since the 1960s. The White House report found that, according to NCES, “between the 1999–2000 and 2005–06 school years, the K–12 faith-based education sector lost nearly 1,200 schools and nearly 425,000 students.”

Private school choice policies like education tax credits and school vouchers hold promise for reversing the decline in faith-based private education. For example, private school attendance, including Catholic school enrollment, have been growing in Arizona, largely thanks to the state’s private school tax credit program.

Now, at Notre Dame, graduates of the ACE Fellowship program, which supports Catholic education, have launched a new blog to mobilize support for school choice programs. The following is an excerpt from a letter from Father Timothy R. Scully—Founder of the Alliance for Catholic Education: “What Would You Fight For?”

Today I’d like to ask you to join me in this fight, both to keep the DC parental choice program alive and to expand our capacity to provide educational opportunities to poor families. The social justice and education teachings of the Church have always courageously asserted that parents are the primary educators of their children, and that parents must have the right to choose the school their children attend. This is the central value proposition of parental choice. This is why I am so committed to this battle.