N.Y. May Redraw Line on Public vs. Parochial Ed New York's Roman Catholic Archdiocese Has Offered to Take 1,000 of the City's Lowest-Performing Students in Return for Public Cash

By Scott Baldauf, writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, September 11, 1996 | Go to article overview

N.Y. May Redraw Line on Public vs. Parochial Ed New York's Roman Catholic Archdiocese Has Offered to Take 1,000 of the City's Lowest-Performing Students in Return for Public Cash


Scott Baldauf, writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


For New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, it's a simple solution to overcrowded schools.

As New York's public schools bulge with 90,000 more students than desks this year, the mayor is considering an offer from local Roman Catholic schools to take some of those students off his hands. Church leaders are willing to take up to 1,000 of the city's lowest-performing students in return for public money for tuition.

The proposal puts New York at the center of a nationwide debate over where to draw the line between church and state in American education. The outcome is being closely watched for its implications for the growing school-choice movement. Proponents say low-income parents should be able to take advantage of Catholic schools, which seem to do a better job at teaching poorly performing children. But others say that giving public money to religious institutions violates the US Constitution and undermines the concept of an equitable education system. Mayor Giuliani (R), a product of parochial schools, calls it an "excellent proposal." For now the proposal remains in limbo as City Hall and archdiocese officials hammer out some of the details. Still to be resolved are questions of where the money will come from and how much religious instruction students will receive. Advocates say it would provide low-income parents with choices affluent parents have long had. "Catholic schools provide better discipline, they have moral cohesion and better parental involvement, and they ... can be held accountable for their results," says Sol Stern, a fellow at the conservative Manhattan Institute. "By contrast, public schools have an incentive for failure. The more you fail, the more money you get to solve the problem." Evidence that Catholic schools do a better job is mounting. A 1990 study by the Rand Corporation found that only 25 percent of New York's public school students graduated and only 16 percent took the Scholastic Assessment Test for college admission. …

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