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Knights of Columbus Calls for School Choice Programs

8/3/2006

The 124th annual convention of the Knights of Columbus today [Aug. 3] adopted a resolution expressing its “support for Catholic schools everywhere,” and calling for “legislation that would establish educational choice programs providing financial assistance to parents who wish to send their children to Catholic schools.”

The resolution notes that “parents must often bear a double burden in order to send their children to Catholic schools, paying taxes to support government schools as well as tuition at the parochial schools.”

For years, opponents of educational choice programs claimed that they were unconstitutional, but the resolution points out that the Supreme Court “ruled in 2002 in Zelman v. Simmons-Harris that a properly structured school choice program does not violate the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution, clearing the way for voucher or tax credit programs that would provide tuition support to parents who choose to send their children to Catholic schools.”

The resolution points out that the Knights of Columbus is currently funding a study by the National Catholic Educational Association on “ways to strengthen Catholic schools, particularly those in urban areas, where they often serve the neediest students.”

After Hurricane Katrina, the Knights of Columbus donated $500,000 to the Catholic school system in New Orleans for tuition grants for lower-income children whose parents were suddenly without jobs.  Prior to the storm, the Catholic schools of New Orleans educated approximately 40 percent of the students in the city.  After the storm, when only a handful of the 128 public schools were able to reopen, 80 percent of the Catholic school students were back in class within weeks.  New Orleans Archbishop Alfred Hughes publicly thanked the Knights for their assistance in the wake of the hurricane in a speech to the convention on Tuesday afternoon.