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I have this image in my head of high schoolers holding a spirited debate – students participating in a game of verbal ping pong, exchanging their arguments back and forth across the classroom.  Then, one student eloquently and passionately captures his side’s position, which causes a hush throughout the room.  After a few seconds of silence, someone else chimes in, “Yeah…what he said.”

I relay this image because we all, I think, experience moments when someone else beautifully captures a belief that we hold, even if we struggle to articulate it.  There are certain stories, movies, homilies, phrases, etc. that resonate with us at times we are not able to predict and for reasons that we cannot fully explain.  It is for this reason, I believe, that some people keep journals of their favorite quotes.  And (perhaps a more relevant example) it is why people will occasionally make their Facebook statuses a favorite quote or choose to link to a youtube video or an article.  Well, that is essentially my feeling on this article: Catholic Education Matters.  The author of this piece, Matt Emerson, describes his preparations for the coming school year and the importance of Catholic education in a way that truly struck a chord with me.  For that reason, I would simply offer my suggestion, particularly for those directly connected to Catholic schools, to go read the article…

Yeah…what he said.

Marion Superior Court Judge Michael Keele issued his ruling Monday afternoon to deny a temporary injunction that would have halted Indiana’s recently enacted Choice Scholarship Program.  The program provides vouchers to families who meet income eligibility guidelines and wish to transfer their child from a public to private school.  Opponents of the Choice Scholarship Program claimed that the legislation violates Indiana’s state constitution, contending that the state would effectively be providing public money to religious institutions.  In his ruling, Judge Keele noted that the public funds are directed to religious schools only upon the “private individual choices of parents.”  Because the eligible families are the agents in determining where the vouchers are used – whether at religious or non-religious private schools – the judge held that the law is “religion-neutral.”

This ruling is a huge (even if anticipated) victory for school choice supporters throughout Indiana, particularly for the families who have been empowered with greater choice.  By the time the application deadline for a Choice Scholarship passes, more than 3,000 students will be enrolled in the program.

This school year marks the first opportunity for parents who meet income eligibility levels to apply for an Indiana Choice Scholarship for their children.  According to a WNDU story, more than 1,300 students had been accepted into the Indiana Choice Scholarship Program by the end of last week.  The article reports that roughly 470 of the students will attend Catholic schools in the Fort Wayne South Bend diocese (that number is now, at the time of this writing, up to 550).  To read the full WNDU story, click here: Vouchers spark 40% enrollment increase at Our Lady.

To some, 1,300 hundred students may not seem like a high number, given that the statewide limit on Choice Scholarships is 7,500 this year.  (The cap for next year is 15,000, and there is no cap in future years.)  In actuality, this number marks an undeniable success.  The rules and regulations for the voucher legislation were not released until the second week of July, families and schools a brief window to begin the application process.  Changing schools no doubt requires some level of adjustment for not only the students but the families as well.  In many cases, families were making the decision of whether to apply for a Choice Scholarship at a time of year when school enrollment has normally already been long decided.  One can reasonably assume that the uncertainty surrounding this new process may have caused some families to delay the decision until next year; this has in fact been observed in other states in the first year following enactment of choice legislation.  While the cap of 7,500 may not have been reached, that more than 1,300 students’ families have taken advantage of greater choice is a cause for celebration.

Increased educational costs and a struggling economy have contributed to the financial challenges that Catholic schools face.  In light of these obstacles, it is uplifting to hear about Catholic school advocates who invest money in the future of Catholic education – especially when they will not even have the chance to see the fruit that their contribution will bear.

Alicia Sullivan of Dover, New Hampshire, decided to donate the wealth that she and her two sisters, Ruth and Mary Melanie Sullivan, had accumulated to benefit two local Catholic schools.  Upon Alicia Sullivan’s death, $500,000 was designated to be split between St. Mary Academy and St. Thomas Aquinas High School. To read the complete story, click here.