This blog started out as a companion piece to my book, Musings from the Christian Left (excerpts of which can be found in the July 2004 link) and to support a planned radio show. Now, its simply a long term writing project from a Christian Left Libertarian perspective (meaning I often argue for liberty within the (Catholic) Church, rather than liberty because the church takes care of a conservative view of morality.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

School Choice in Virginia

As the father of a kindergartener, I am in favor of school choice. I am planning on sending my daughter to parochial school next year and should not have to pay for two educations, one by tuition and the other by taxes (although I pay for less than a full educaiton through taxes, since each child's tuition is spread among several taxpayers).

Since we are Catholic, there is a problem, since in Virginia we have a Blaine Amendment which prohibits state funds to Catholic education. Many have said this is an equal protection violation under the terms of the 14th Amendment. I tend to agree and hope for a change in the near future, either through a Constitutional Amendment in Virginia or a federal case. This could come about if the legislature or a school district tried to fund Catholic schools and were sued in Virginia courts. (It could also come from a federal case in another state). Regardless of how it goes down, I predict the Blaine Amendment will eventually be a thing of the past. What is of concern is what will happen next.

There is currently quite a constituency in Virginia, particularly Northern Virginia for public of funding of parochial schools. To put it bluntly, this part of the state is crawling with Catholics, especially when compared with other parts of the state (although Tidwater also has its share). If private school funding were constitutional, there would be an outcry for it, and the GOP should take advantage of that outcry by advocating for school choice. School choice will go nowhere, however, if it is seen as merely an attempt to gut public school budgets or break the teachers union. This means that school choice needs to do two things. The first is to allow parochial school teachers to unionize if they so chose, with a local for each diocese. The second is to increase revenue. How much should revenue be increased? Simply put, revenue should go up enough to cover the cost of tuition and contributions no longer needed by the parochial school system because of public funding. That is half of the equation - the other is to determine the income distribution of current private school parents and donors and increase taxes for the same economic strata, prefereably through income tax changes.When the advocates of school choice are willing to concede these two points, school choice will pass


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