Letter: A parent’s right to educational choice

Parents have the right to form their children in body, mind, and spirit, so I write to share my thoughts on increasing educational opportunities for families.

Last October, the Ohio Department of Education released a public-school list increasing student eligibility for traditional EdChoice scholarships. There was also an increase in funding and eligible grade levels for EdChoice expansion, serving low-income families. These actions, thankfully, provide greater opportunities for educational choices for parents.

We believe parents are the primary educators of their children; therefore, parental choice in education is a fundamental right. The Catechism highlights, “As those first responsible for the education of their children, parents have the right to choose a school for them which corresponds to their own convictions. This right is fundamental.” It also affirms, “Public authorities have the duty of guaranteeing this parental right and of ensuring the concrete conditions for its exercise.”

Catholic schools serve students from every race and every economic status; they save local districts in the 19 counties of our Diocese approximately $154 million per year; and they integrate essential human values and virtues into our daily pedagogy. Catholic schools have a proven tradition of developing the whole person. The results are striking: Catholic school students are more likely to pray daily, attend church more often, more likely to vote, more likely to graduate from high school (especially for minority students), and more likely to attend college. Catholic school students exhibit more self-control than those in public or other private schools — an indicator of spiritual, academic, and financial success.

School choice is also a social justice issue: “Whenever the state lays claim to an educational monopoly, it oversteps its rights and offends justice. …The State cannot without injustice merely tolerate so-called private schools. Such schools render a public service and therefore have a right to financial assistance,” (Cardinal Ratzinger, 1986). Taking away already promised opportunities for school choice for families is a further injustice.

We are duty bound to support parents’ rights to be the primary educators of their children and to provide them with educational options. True school choice includes options for public schools, private schools, religious schools, or homeschooling. Committed to the virtues of charity and justice, we will work so that all parents know about these EdChoice opportunities and continue to support a fair school choice program for all families, which ultimately is in the best interest of our children and our society.

Most Reverend Daniel E. Thomas, Bishop of Toledo

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