Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Goldwater Institute: Laws Should Recognize Value of Inner-City Private Schools

by Matthew Ladner, Ph.D.

Recently I had the opportunity to attend the White House Summit on Inner-City Children and Faith-Based Schools. The news was discouraging: From 2000 to 2006, nearly 1,200 inner-city faith-based schools closed, displacing 425,000 students. Inner city private schools work for many children. Minorities attending inner city Catholic schools, for example, are twenty six percent more likely to earn a diploma and twice as likely to earn a degree as their public school counterparts.

Arizona has been bucking this trend, largely because of our school choice programs. Nevertheless, the writing is on the wall for inner-city faith based schools in most areas of the country. That's because the school finance system showers funds on students attending public schools, while almost entirely denying funds to those attending private schools.

Innovators have mustered private efforts to help address this crisis. Notre Dame's Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) prepares talented college graduates to work as teachers in inner-city Catholic schools. Today about 650 ACE teachers and graduates are at work, and the program has been successfully replicated at other universities. In the Cristo Rey schools, low-income students work part-time for local businesses to finance their Catholic school education. There are 19 Cristo Rey schools across the nation, including San Miguel High School in Tucson.

Public policy also has a role to play. Adoption of universal school choice laws, where children can access public or private schools with public support, could give inner-city students the educational opportunities that faith-based schools provide.

Dr. Matthew Ladner is vice president of research at the Goldwater Institute.

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