A Possible Solution To the Vouchers Issue

January 2001By Richard Bruce

Richard Bruce, a substitute teacher in Davis, California, entered the Catholic Church as an adult convert in 1982.

When we ask for vouchers for parochial schools, we are probably asking for a little too much. Perhaps we would have better luck if we asked for a voucher that covered the secular portion of a parochial-school education. Rich and middle-class parents could pay for the religious portion of their children’s education. The collection plate and/or the rich parents could pay for the religious portion for the poor.

In 1997 public schools in this country cost an average of $5,911 per student, currently no doubt somewhat more than $6,000. Let’s use the $6,000 figure per student for ease of calculation. Parochial schools commonly survive on half that, roughly $3,000 per student. Less than one-fifth of the time in a typical parochial school is spent on religious education. So if parents and/or the parish gave the parochial school $600 annually per student, then we could reasonably argue that the religious portion of the education was not coming from the public purse.

But the children of poor parents will have to be offered free education or else the system will be accused of elitism. For the sake of illustration let us assume that the poorest one-third must be given a free ride.

If the richest third of the parents were required to pay for the poorest third, then the top third would pay $1,200 per child — still a lot less than the $3,000 they would have to pay without a voucher system. The middle third would pay $600 per child — not too bad — and the bottom third would receive free education. Once again these burdens are reasonable.

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