Home » Our Columns

John McCain on School Choice

Pat Hickey 28 February 2008 6 Comments

The Chicago Archdiocese serves more than 100,000 students from every faith, family background, and financial situation. The Archdiocese also creates jobs for more than 8,000 persons who teach, administer and serve the Catholic School System. Those employees and the parents of Catholic school students pay taxes – which fuel the Public Schools. The public school sacred cow worshippers would have one believe that Catholic and other private schools serve the elite. That is not close to the case, unless, of course, great personal sacrifice is the rubric for elite.

Catholic school parents largely work more than one job. Catholic school parents are largely what one used to call middle class. The middle class in America is vanishing and public schools are doing their part to speed up that process. Catholic Schools and private schools in general need school choice – vouchers. Public school advocates scream ‘Parents have made their choice!’

Not true, but you have a tough time getting that through to Chicago news media. Choice in education will be a big part of the Presidential National Debate once the ring is cleared of all but the true contenders. John McCain stands for choice – which is anathema to the national Democratic Party (DNC) and candidates who wish to be elected under its aegis.

The Public School Lobby is one of the most active and violently unforgiving of any candidate who would even consider school choice. Witness this from a Washington Post column by George Will:

“In Arizona, some amazingly persistent and mostly liberal people are demonstrating the tenacity with which some interests fight to prevent parents of modest means from having education choices like those available to most Americans. In 1999, Arizona’s Supreme Court upheld a program whereby individuals receive tax credits for donations they make to organizations that provide scholarships to enable children to attend private schools, religious and secular. More than 22,500 children have benefited from the program in a decade. Thousands of families are on waiting lists for scholarships because 600 Arizona schools have failed to meet federal academic requirements.

In 2000, Arizona opponents of school choice, in a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, attacked the program in a federal court. They failed again, in a ruling issued in 2005, which was not surprising, given that in 2002 the Supreme Court held that there is no constitutional infirmity in government-sponsored and administered programs that involve “true private choice” by giving government aid directly to parents, who use it at their discretion for sectarian or nonsectarian schools.

Now Arizona opponents of school choice, thirsting for a third defeat, are challenging what Arizona’s legislature enacted last year. Noting the success of the individual tax credit for scholarship contributions, the legislature has authorized corporate donors a dollar-for-dollar tax credit for contributions to private, nonprofit school tuition organizations. So opponents of school choice are trudging back to court, where they will recycle twice-rejected arguments.

Doing the same thing repeatedly while expecting different results is a sign of insanity, but what really defines the plaintiffs is banality. This is about the control of schools by bureaucrats, about work rules negotiated by unions and, not least, about money — not allowing any to flow away from the usual channels.

The public school lobby, which apparently has little confidence in its product, lives in fear of competition — the fear that if parents’ choices are expanded, there will be a flight from public schools. But the tide is turning:”

Republican Nominee to be John McCain is for school choice McCain supports the following principles concerning school choice:

1) Allow parents to use vouchers to send their children to any participating school: public, private or religious

2) Allow parents to use tax-free savings accounts to send their children to any participating school: public, private or religious

3) Support creation of more charter schools where teachers and professionals receive authorization and funding to establish new schools

John McCain also refuses to pay for vouchers with an increase in Taxes – John McCain would take sugar, oil and ethanol subsidies and apply those funds to school choice initiatives.–

The two hundred and seventeen elementary schools and thirty-nine high schools of Archdiocese of Chicago just might find a friend in John McCain.


Pat Hickey is a Chicago Writer, and Development Director at Leo Catholic High School and a supporter of John McCain for President.


  • Mark Rhoads (author) said:

    Pat Hickey offers a good analysis of the merits of vouchers irrespective of the presidential candidates people favor. But while we are at it, it does make more sense to at least know where the candidates stand on the matter. Teachers unions exert a very strong influence on the national Democratic party and in general their leaders are against innovation of any kind.

    One argument against school choice sometmes put forward by strict advocates for separation of church and state is that some atheist student walking the halls of a parochial school might actually see a religious symbol hanging on a wall. This is not a serious argument but a silly one and tedious in that it insults the intelligence of all students. Seeing a cross on a classroom wall is hardly so intimidating as seeing hundreds of churches with crosses during a drive through any community.

    Milwaukee is not that far from Chicago and school choice is helping students in that city. See http://www.schoolchoiceinfo.org/

  • Rob O'Connell (author) said:

    Obama is open to school vouchers.


  • John Powers (author) said:

    While I applaud any opening for better education, Obama wants to run a longitudinal study on vouchers, giving him a 1000 opportunities to reject them.

    Does the Senator want to run an experiment to see if Burger King is really needed to keep McDonalds on its toes as well? How about letting parents make their own choice in the education process then reporting the results of the studies to influence their choices?


  • Vicki Hampton (author) said:

    Bravo Mister Pat as usual you have related the facts of the matter all except for one small but very important detail it….money. It all boils down to money that is their bottom line and that is this subject’s bottom line. They do not want vouchers because they are too easy to keep track of and they can not be quick handed the way the money can. It is easy with money to lose track in the shuffle, not so with vouchers because they leave an easier trail to follow.

  • Dan Kelley (author) said:

    Interesting to see how quickly Obama’s rapid response team is to answer any criticism of their candidate, real or imagined. Now, if they would only come clean about Rezko.

  • Vicki Hampton (author) said:

    Obama is open to anything if it is to his advantage and no one is looking. If he can steal it then he will claim it. Speeches, ideas,bills or programs nothing is off limits to sticky fingers Obama. If you turn your head then he will attempt to stick his name on it, hey why not vouchers?

Leave your response!

Add your comment below, or trackback from your own site. You can also subscribe to these comments via RSS.

Be nice. Keep it clean. Stay on topic. No spam.

You can use these tags:
<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

This is a Gravatar-enabled weblog. To get your own globally-recognized-avatar, please register at Gravatar.