Friends of ACE,
I’ve been thinking a lot this week about those NBC Notre Dame commercials that ask, “What would you fight for?” In ACE, we’ve always fought for Catholic schools, but the recent debate over the parental choice program in Washington, DC has made it clear to me that the fight for Catholic schools and the fight for parental school choice are, in so many ways, the same fight.
Today I’d like to ask you to join me in this fight, both to keep the DC parental choice program alive and to expand our capacity to provide educational opportunities to poor families. The social justice and education teachings of the Church have always courageously asserted that parents are the primary educators of their children, and that parents must have the right to choose the school their children attend. This is the central value proposition of parental choice. This is why I am so committed to this battle.
The DC Opportunity Scholarship Program currently allows 1,700 kids in Washington to go to a school chosen by their parents, and many of those families choose Catholic schools. To qualify for these scholarships, these families’ income must be at or below 185% of the federal poverty line. The average family income is under $23,000, and 99% of recipients are minority. So we’re talking about some of the poorest, most marginalized families in one of the worst school districts in America.
If we’re not going to fight for them, then who will we fight for?
I asked you to get involved last week when I learned that Congress was threatening to end the DC parental choice program. I’m deeply grateful that so many of you responded. We’re now gearing up for what’s sure to be a long, tough re-authorization process, and we will need your continued help.
Over the coming weeks and months, we need to build a network of friends who will be ready to mobilize to fight for these children. We need tenacious advocates for kids who will be willing to write and call and e-mail folks in power on behalf of kids who have none. And we need to leverage every available resource at our disposal to make the case for parental choice to those who will determine its fate.
So what to do? We’ve set up two websites to serve as Fellowship HQ on this issue. You can come here, or, if you’re on Facebook, you can join the ACE Fellowship group there. These spaces will be updated several times each week and will provide news updates, guidance for those of you who are eager to get involved, and resources you can use to learn more about the issue and educate your friends and family.
Most importantly, we’ll use these sites to mobilize our networks, provide direction, and coordinate our efforts when the time is right. In the meantime, we encourage you to reach out to your networks, ACE and UCCE grads, friends, family, Catholic school teachers and leaders, and anyone that believes in Catholic education and educational opportunity for poor children.
What would you fight for?
I’d love to hear St. Paul answer that question. Near the end of his life, Paul tells his friend Timothy:
I have fought the good fight to the end;
I have run the race to the finish;
I have kept the faith.”
For me, keeping the faith means fighting for the rights of poor and marginalized parents to seek better schools for their kids.
This is the good fight. I hope you’ll join it.
Fr. TimRev. Timothy R. Scully, CSC is the founder of the Alliance for Catholic Education