Will Vouchers Change Us?

by Dr. Joseph D. Hollowell, 9 yrs ago

This past spring the Indiana State Legislature passed one of the most profound changes of the K-12 education system in its history.  The centerpiece of the legislation is that parents of children from middle income and lower income families will now receive financial support from the State if they choose to send their children to a private school.  This support will come in the form of tuition vouchers that will help more families be able to choose the sort of education that they feel is best for their sons and daughters - including a private religious education.  The legislation is proclaimed as the most sweeping and comprehensive education reform package in the nation and, from what I can tell, it lives up to this billing.  

As I have spoken to people throughout our community on this development the same question seems to be on the minds of many,  "Will the availability of these vouchers change the Catholic nature and mission of Roncalli?"  This is a legitimate and very important question.  I understand why people would ask it because I had the same question myself.  Earlier this spring, just as the  education legislative package had been proposed, I was invited to a meeting at the Archbishop O'Meara Catholic Center with Governor Mitch Daniels and State Superintendent Tony Bennett as they met with many leaders of Catholic schools from around the state.  Though there were many questions that we all had, there was a recurring theme that emerged as an overarching concern among all of our schools.  That concern was that if we take money from the state what sort of new requirements will we have to meet and will these requirements in some way compromise our ability to bring the truth of the Gospel message to the hearts and minds of our students?  We were all reassured that there would be no new requirements other than those that 98% of our schools were already meeting to become accredited by the State Department of Education.  Experience, of course, tells us all that the proof is in the pudding.  And we have not seen the final dish yet. However, at this early stage there are signs of hope that this new program will work out well for many of our families.

As this article goes to press it is a little early to say that the assurances the Governor gave us were true though there is no indication that the legislation is anything but respectful of the unique mission of every private school.  The protections that we all sought seem to be there.  However, the Department of Education is still drafting the rules of the application process, the expected court challenge by the Indiana State Teachers Association is only beginning, and so far not a nickel has changed hands.  But I want to assure you that, while we are excited about the prospects of this legislation to help many of our families that need it the most, we are not for a moment considering adopting changes to our school that will make us a less effective instrument as a teaching arm of the Catholic Church.  

As we continue to keep a steady and watchful eye on how this new legislation is fleshed out in the lives of our school and our families please know that we consider our top priorities to be the faith formation and moral development of our students.  No amount of money from anyone will deter us from that most sacred task.  

Thanks for your support of Roncalli!  God bless us all in our work!!

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