Researchers are finally realizing what parents have long understood: that Catholic schools make a difference.
Recent sociological studies have found that Catholic schools are a benefit to their students, and to their communities. Researchers have found that Catholic schools benefit student achievement and happiness, form graduates more engaged in public, family, and community life, and contribute to the social cohesion of their entire neighborhoods.
Catholic schools benefit everyone: those who attend them and those who don’t. But the cost of Catholic education falls only to parents, parishes, and generous benefactors. For some parents, the cost of Catholic schooling is a real hardship, met only through sacrifices. And, sadly, the cost of Catholic education prevents some parents from sending their children to Catholic schools at all. And, like all things, the cost of Catholic education continues to increase.
The truth is, parents have a right to choose the best education for their children. And the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that government has “the duty of guaranteeing this parental right and ensuring the concrete conditions of its exercise.”
In fact, Pope Leo XIII taught that “the poor... have a special claim to special consideration,” and that civil governments ought to be particularly attentive to ensure that the rights of struggling families to send their children to Catholic schools are protected.
This year, Nebraska’s legislature will consider LB295, a bill designed to support parents who choose Catholic education for their children. LB295 empowers parents, by offering tax credits for private donations to organizations giving scholarships to our state’s poor and working-class children.
LB 295 does not create vouchers, which shift funds from public schools to students attending private schools. Instead, LB 295 provides a tax incentive for private donations to private schools. In the 18 states with similar programs, studies have shown that scholarship tax credits reduce overcrowding and overspending in public school districts and save taxpayer dollars by slowing the expense of state education aid. While LB 295 would lead to a savings for Nebraska’s taxpayers, its “credit cap” would ensure only a minimal impact to the state’s budget in the short term.
Most important, tuition tax credits help all Nebraskans. They help students to benefit from the education best suited to their needs. They help parents to exercise their rights and obligations as the primary educators of their children. And they strengthen entire communities, because of the benefits provided by parochial and private schools.
Our Catholic schools are good for Nebraska. And LB 295 makes our schools more accessible, to more families. I encourage our Legislature to pass LB 295, and I encourage you to contact your state senator, and voice your support.