What’s at stake if Catholic schools don’t open in the fall

By Tim Huelskamp, Washington Examiner, July 29, 2020

Catholic schools in America comprise the largest parochial school system in the world. They have been in existence even before our nation’s founding. They have built an unparalleled legacy of academic excellence, promoted racial and ethnic integration, and made the American dream possible for so many whose opportunities were otherwise limited. These cherished institutions are facing extinction very soon.

Saving them ought to be a bipartisan effort. But as these institutions are fighting to survive, Joe Biden and his special interest allies shrug their shoulders and watch.

Catholic schools excel in many areas compared to their public-school counterparts. This is especially true for the low-income and minority students they serve. Their achievement gap is smaller, and Latino and African American students are more likely to graduate high school and college after attending Catholic schools. In general, graduates of Catholic schools participate in more civic engagement and earn higher wages than public school graduates. Overall, 99% of students who attend Catholic high school graduate and 86% of those attend a four-year college.

Catholic schools do all this while spending less than half of the national average per student and saving taxpayers about $24 billion by educating those who would otherwise attend public schools.

If they are prohibited from resuming in-person classes in the fall, many Catholic schools may never reopen again. So many can barely make it now. In addition to losing support from Sunday parish collections, which have slowed to a trickle thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, these schools would lose another critical source of revenue: tuition.

Though Biden and his children have benefited from a Catholic school education, he is on the record opposing equal treatment of religious schools in the recent Espinoza vs. Montana Department of Revenue Supreme Court case. According to Biden, sharing any public funds with parents of students at private schools would “undermine the entire public education system … that’s why I oppose vouchers.” Biden’s position, which shamelessly panders to politically powerful teachers unions, will doom many poor and minority students to attend the local public schools that so often fail them.

In contrast, President Trump proudly supports school choice. In fact, he recently called it the civil rights issue of the decade and added, “All children have to have access to quality education. A child’s ZIP code in America should never determine their future, and that’s what was happening. All children deserve equal opportunity because we are all made equal by God.”

Not only that, but despite vehement opposition from Biden and his allies, the Trump administration has shown concrete support for Catholic schools with its Paycheck Protection Program. This program has kept many of these schools afloat through the spring and into summer with forgivable government loans.

If students don’t return to the classroom this fall, and our centuries-old Catholic school system collapses as a result, Biden and the Democrats would be happy. They’d be scoring countless political points with the teachers unions. But that would leave far fewer refuges for families trying to escape failing public schools. And far fewer students who get the opportunity to experience what Biden did at Holy Rosary Elementary where the religious sisters “taught us reading, writing, math, and history — as well as core concepts of decency, fair play, and virtue.”

Let’s see to it in November that Catholic schools and the futures of so many American children keep a strong ally in the Oval Office.

Tim Huelskamp, Ph.D., is a former U.S. congressman from Kansas and CatholicVote’s senior political adviser.

This article first appeared HERE.