The pundits and politicians are buzzing about the recent Supreme Court Ruling on Corporate Spending Limits. See this Eduwonk post for the first commentary I read about possible implications for education policy. The main point, this will offer far more latitude for financial contributions from unions. The NEA, the nations largest teachers union, is already the largest spender on politics in the 2007-2008 elections at over 50 million dollars. Its troubling to think what education politics will look like with less limits on union spending.
As a New York Times article today discussing this issue began, “There are two things that are important in politics,” Mark Hanna, the great Republican kingmaker of the late 19th century, once said. “The first thing is money, and I can’t remember what the second one is.”
What does this mean for Catholic schools? As Catholic schools have continued to suffer enrollment declines and closures due to rising tuition costs that make enrollment out of reach for lower-income families, publicly funded parental choice programs have been a bright spot on the horizon. Arizona, with a strong tax-credit program for scholarships to lower-income children, is a notable example. Arizona is one of the few states to see enrollment gains and increased demand for Catholic schools, as noted some time ago by Jay P. Greene in his blog and this article.
The worry? If already powerful teacher’s unions become more powerful after this supreme court ruling, the battle to provide choices in education and to keep Catholic schools accessible to all children will likely become more difficult in the future.
It is too early to tell exactly what the implications will be, but Catholic school advocates and education reform advocates should gird their loins for a fight, because a tough fight may be about to get even tougher.