HomeSchool Reform NewsWhat’s So Frightening about Parochial Schools?

What’s So Frightening about Parochial Schools?

I work at a high school where the majority of the students are from inner-city Milwaukee. They are confronted almost daily with some form of dysfunction, depravity, or violence.

One day, some of my students challenged me as to why they should put a lot of effort into their studies when, from their perspective, the outlook for their futures looked bleak. I reminded them that God doesn’t want them to live in poverty or hopelessness. Rather, as stated in Proverbs 13, He wants them to live lives of prosperity, generosity and leave a legacy, which is possible if we follow His plan. I was able to share aspects of my faith with my students because the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (MPCP) has enabled their parents to send them to Milwaukee Lutheran High School on a voucher.

Soon parents in Maine might have this opportunity as well: The Supreme Court heard oral arguments Dec. 8 for a case known as Carson v. Makin where they are to decide whether the State of Maine’s school choice law, which funds secular private schools but not parochial schools, is unconstitutional. I believe it is not only legally but morally right that parents, especially those in low-income areas with failing public schools, should be able to use taxpayer vouchers to send their kids to a private Christian school if that is what they choose for their child.

I teach Free Enterprise classes at Milwaukee Lutheran High School, with over 850 low-income students attending free of tuition on a school voucher through the MPCP. The Milwaukee Public Schools in large part are failing urban youth and parents are desperately seeking alternatives. They’ve heard our civic leaders shouting “Reform! Reform! Reform!” for decades but have seen no change. If anything, the situation has only gotten worse. Our public schools are low-performing, bloated with administrators and red tape, and are becoming increasingly violent. Milwaukee Lutheran offers a creative, faith-based curriculum that performs. Not surprisingly, many inner-city parents prefer it for their children. That’s why we have a waiting list for admission.

At Milwaukee Lutheran, the first book every student receives is the Bible. We are constantly telling our kids that our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, through their teachers, is providing them with the tools they will need not only to improve their own station in life but also to serve others as commanded by Him. We don’t expect our students to “pick themselves up by their bootstraps,” instead we say that they have the power to change their circumstances because God is bigger and he has given them opportunities to succeed such as attending a voucher school.

Faith is not the sole focus of what we teach, but it informs our teaching. For instance, I teach my students that the concepts of capitalism and free enterprise, if implemented correctly, are in essence modeled after God’s will that we serve others. Capitalists don’t get rich doing what they want; they get rich by doing what everyone else wants. Moreover, Christianity teaches that greed is destructive and money should never be prioritized over loving and serving our fellow man.

The bottom line is this: no child should be forced to attend a failing school. Parents ought to be empowered to give their children the best education they can.

Based on the questioning coming from the Court in the Maine case, the general consensus is that the Court is leaning toward striking down the law that bans vouchers from use in parochial schools. Predictably, the reaction by the public school establishment has been over the top. These parochial school critics don’t want to pay for a school to teach any religion (other than Atheism). They are characterizing religious schools as bastions of intolerance, indoctrinating mindless drones who will take the first opportunity to attack the nearest available marginalized group they can find. Taxpayer dollars, they argue, should not go toward educating a child in such an environment. But these critics don’t mind if that low-income student is subjected to the violent, chaotic “environment” of a failing inner-city school. How is that attitude serving children in need?

A former vice principal at Milwaukee Lutheran would end the days’ announcements with “I love you. More importantly, He loves you.”

Love is at the heart of any great education. In this respect, it is the power of a parochial school to restore not only one’s faith in God, but also a struggling child’s hope for the future—generally, with better academics thrown in as a bonus. Any rational thinker would think that is taxpayer money well spent.

Shannon Whitworth
Shannon Whitworth is a Bradley Freedom Fellow at the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty and is director of the Free Enterprise Academy at Milwaukee Lutheran High School.

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