Voucher Programs: Problems and Promises for Catholic Schools

During the recent confirmation process of current U.S. Secretary of Education Betsey DeVos, her critics decried a 2001 speech in which DeVos referred to her work in education reform as an attempt to “help advance God’s kingdom.” The New York Times cried “theocracy,” while the secretary’s Calvinist coreligionists assured us that this simply means she wants to help people.[1]  Of course, both condemnation and reduction of DeVos’s religious motivations elide the fact that both the advent of common schooling in America and the early 20th century movement for mass secondary education were animated by religious convictions. Antebellum Whig reformers sought to establish a system to inculcate pan-Protestant piety and morality.[2] Progressive Era social meliorists were informed by the Social Gospel movement, which imagined the Kingdom of God as a primarily material affair.[3] Historical precedent notwithstanding, it seems that DeVos’s statement raised alarm because of concerns with institutional mingling, or in the language of Lemon v. Kurtzman (1971), an “excessive entanglement” of government and religion.[4]

Voucher programs and other state aid measures raise a similar question for Catholics: what should be the relationship between Catholic schools and the state?  It may be helpful to frame our discernment in the discussion that has recently emerged around Rod Dreher’s “Benedict Option.”  Do our concerns with state control and broader cultural influence suggest a rather “Benedictine” (at least as Dreher might have it) distance from the broader educational sphere?[5]  Or, do we desire a sort of “Augustinian” (at least in in Archbishop Chaput’s formulation) project of cooperation between the City of Man and the Church?[6]  Here I offer no answers, even provisional ones. Rather, I attempt to articulate a few questions and considerations that might serve as points of departure for this important discussion.

What to do about school vouchers is certainly a question that conscientious Catholics must answer. Political support for voucher programs has waxed and waned over the last several decades, but our present moment seems unique. At least on a federal level, both executive and legislative actors seem keen to promote school choice. President Trump has promised massive (and seemingly numerically arbitrary) grants for federal voucher programs.[7] A bill that would provide block grants to states to use for vouchers was introduced to the House last January.[8]  On April 19th of 2017, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments for a case (Trinity Lutheran v. Comer) which may clear the major legal obstacle for voucher programs in many states. It is quite possible that new opportunities (and perhaps new dangers) will face Catholic schools in the very near future. While our bishops have long advocated for parental choice policies, and deference to their prudential judgement is needed, it is worth considering the issue, as cultural and legal conditions may change.

After briefly summarizing the current state of voucher programs and similar provisions, I offer some considerations that might dampen our enthusiasm. I follow with some reasons to embrace these programs. The essay will close with a few considerations we might keep in mind going forward.

Present State of Voucher and Similar School Choice Programs

Voucher programs, as they exist in the United States, are often traced to an idea first proposed by Milton Friedman in 1955.[9] In essence, in lieu of establishing its own schools, a state government would grant parents funds to be used for tuition at their choice of school. While Friedman’s primary aim was to introduce competition and market efficiencies into the education sphere, the idea holds appeal for families of color or religious families who find the public schools ideologically alienating.[10] While ad hoc programs like those in 19th century rural New England and in post-Brown decision “segregation academies” predate contemporary programs, the current voucher movement began to take hold in the early 1990’s. Limited and means-tested programs emerged in Milwaukee, Washington, D.C., and other urban areas, and many of these programs are still in operation. At present, voucher programs exist in 19 states and the District of Columbia, supporting over 115,000 students and spending $1.2 billion per year.[11]

In the last decade, alternative choice provisions have emerged. Scholarship tax credits grant businesses and individuals who donate to scholarship funds the ability to reduce total tax paid by the value of their donations. Tax credit programs exist in 17 states and in school year 2013-2014 accounted for $555 million in tuition funds and 190,000 students. In recent years, Arizona, Florida, Mississippi, Nevada, and Tennessee have introduced Educational Savings Accounts or ESA’s.[12] Families are given funds, usually through a special debit card, to spend on a limited range of educational options—tuition at private schools, tutoring, online platforms, or homeschool materials.

Problems and Dangers

Increased enrollment or budget assistance sound wonderful, but Catholic schools have reason to be wary of state aid. To begin with, state provision may be accompanied by intolerable state control. At present, most voucher programs mandate that participating schools take part in state testing programs, meet curricular requirements, and hire state-certified teachers.[13] While the 2012 Hosanna-Tabor decision preserved the right of religious institutions to hire for mission, we may imagine a future in which schools receiving state aid will be subject to narrower hiring restrictions. We should remember that public schooling has historically not only been a vehicle for children’s education but for the social-mobility aspirations of working-class adults.[14] We might envision the state claiming a compelling interest in providing equal opportunities in a large employment sector.

These concerns become more alarming when we reflect that in recent years, the federal apparatus surrounding school policy has been so ordered as to consolidate executive power. The Department of Education under the Obama administration developed a habit of issuing “Dear Colleague” letters that stipulated interpretations of educational legislation. The most famous of these was a joint letter with the Department of Justice requiring schools to allow students to use the bathrooms that correspond to their perceived gender identity. While a Texas district court judge quickly issued a nation-wide injunction, the mere possibility of executive overreach—which also seems to be appealing to the current administration—should give us pause.[15]

For similar reasons, many in the homeschool community vigorously oppose House Bill 610, a repeal and replacement of the Every Student Succeeds Act, itself the last in a long line of reauthorizations of the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act.[16] HR 610, as written, would provide funds to homeschool parents in addition to supporting voucher programs. A recent letter circulated by the Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) opposes the legislation, as “government money will eventually lead to government control.” The organization also objected to efforts to delineate standard homeschool costs and even the introduction of a federal right to homeschooling, fearing that “what could be created by a favorable Congress could be regulated by a future, hostile Congress.” In short, the HSLDA asked parents to tell their representatives, “On principle, homeschooling has succeeded as a movement in part by being different. Unlike typical constituencies asking for our piece of the public-money pie, we have simply asked the federal government to leave us alone.”[17]

Aside from direct coercion, we should be aware that rearranging the relationship between the state and Catholic schools may have unintended consequences for teaching. In his comparative survey of national school funding arrangements, Charles Glenn observes a curious trend in Dutch Catholic education. The Dutch system, which fully funds a plurality of schools, religious and otherwise, imposes a few broad requirements in regards to teacher certification and ongoing professional development. While schools are given significant autonomy in their pedagogical approach, they must offer certain classes across standard curricular categories—math, literature, geography, etc. While most American Catholic schools offer a parallel curriculum to their public counterparts, we might fear that these sorts of requirements would hamper the growth of the burgeoning classical school movement. More interestingly, Glenn found that because teachers were subjected to common training programs, they began to identify more strongly with the norms of their profession than with the distinctive ethos of their schools.[18] Under this sort of arrangement, Catholic schools might become simply secular institutions that happen to be operated by the Church.

We should also be aware of the subtle ways in which Catholic schools involved in voucher programs might willingly grow to resemble non-Catholic institutions. In further competing for students with public schools, Catholic schools may come to adopt the rather instrumental ethos of contemporary education. One area of concern is the predominance of standardized testing in public institutions. Historians John Jordan and Roger Bannister have traced the early 20th century emergence of statistical social science to the decline of metaphysical reasoning as a mode of civic discourse. Whether due to the failure of the Enlightenment project to ground a science of being, the horrific events of the First World War, or a growing religious “hyperplurality,” political questions ceased to be adjudicated by appeals to normative claims about the human person, the purpose of life, or the nature of the cosmos. Instead, public discourse embraced numeracy as a sort of least common linguistic denominator.[19] Nowhere is this more evident than in American schools. In an age where metaphysical reasoning about the nature of persons no longer holds sway in the public sphere, test scores are often the primary markers of school quality for policy makers, citizens, and parents.

In my own time as a Catholic school teacher, I was shocked to see how willingly we adopted the culture of standardized testing. Even in my high school theology department, where we were insulated from any form of state requirements or curriculum standards, my colleagues worked to develop our own standard batteries. If Catholic schools accept state funds and are thus subject to the whims of the testing regime, curricula and teaching will inevitably mirror the content and logic of exams.

Voucher advocates often invite this instrumental transformation. When we hear that students should be given an alternative because “public schools are failing our kids,” we may begin to see Catholic schools as merely better versions of public institutions. Similarly, the legal framework which enables state aid—established in Everson (1947), McCollum (1948), and Lemon (1971)—relies on a separation of activities into “religious” and “secular” within the Catholic school,[20] a notion strikingly at odds with the Church’s own understanding of education. If we are convinced that knowledge of nature, mathematics, and literature cannot be divorced from cosmological understandings; if we assert that Christ has something to do with every activity in the school, then we may run afoul of the logic embedded in legal precedent. We might be concerned that embracing state aid may pressure schools to acquiesce to this self-understanding. Indeed, some voucher programs require schools to allow students to “opt-out” of religious education, reinforcing the common perception that a Catholic school is merely a secular institution with an ancillary theological component.

Likewise, contemporary jurisprudence envisions the primary state interest in education as preparing young people for democratic participation. This is undoubtedly a good, and there is even evidence that Catholic schools provide a better civic education than public schools.[21]  However, by arguing for state support of Catholic schools according to this logic, we are in danger of altering the very purpose of our educational institutions. Rather than awaken the student to the divine, Catholic education will serve primarily to form good citizens. There is a further danger that in framing Catholic schools as sites of civic preparation, we may embrace the decidedly Rawlsian frame of contemporary citizenship education discourse. In Rawls’ view, citizens may hold a wide variety of private “comprehensive doctrines,” but must jettison these when making arguments in the public sphere.[22] This accords with the mid-century Court’s “secular” and “religious” distinction in education. However, many contemporary education scholars see Rawls’ advocacy of separate private and public epistemic dispositions as either practically impossible or non-ideal. As education regards the formation of a unitary person, Rawls’ distinction produces a rather schizophrenic student. Eamon Callan, Stephen Macedo, and Rob Reich all conclude that democratic education involves the formation of a person who in inclined only toward those reasons which would be acceptable in Rawls’ public sphere.[23] The risk for Catholic schools should be obvious. In attempting to excel under the criteria of the broader educational sphere, we may adopt either the tenuous “secular”-“religious” distinction or the decidedly secular vision of civic educators.

Finally, we should be aware that choice programs may be used by some for unsavory purposes.  Following the 1954 Brown decision, several Southern state and local governments attempted to dismantle public schools and institute massive tuition grant programs in order to circumvent the ruling.[24] It is possible (yet no less repulsive) that families may select Catholic schools out of a desire to attend more statistically White institutions. While Black students over-enroll in urban Catholic schools relative to their proportion of the Catholic population, Catholic schools on aggregate enroll larger percentages of White students than their public counterparts.[25] Of course, many scholars have argued that raw enrollment numbers which deny housing patterns and income levels are a poor measure of racial segregation, and many conclude that Catholic schools are much more integrated than comparable public schools.[26] To be sure, the Church’s universal ethic, the American Church’s large portion of Latino families, and the Church’s explicit calls for racial equity[27] make it unlikely that Catholic schools will be used as segregation academies, but we should be guarded against programs that might be used for such unintended ends.

In brief, we might be wary of school choice programs because of what state actors might impose on Catholic schools and what Catholic educators might impose on themselves. Curricular requirements, standardized testing, and hiring constraints may accompany government funds. In ratcheting up the competition for non-Catholic students, schools may be inclined to embrace the definitions of success and learning that hold sway in the broader sphere. It is no accident that homeschooling families and schools like the Scuola G.K. Chesterton (an Italian school that Rod Dreher identifies as an exemplar of the Benedict Option) refuse public funding.[28] These communities observe an educational arena that is replete with inadequate understandings of the human person and the aim of human life. They strive to offer the world something distinctive but realize that collaboration or comingling with public institutions would inevitably corrupt their vision. And so, perhaps like 5th century monastics, they keep their activities intramural—inside the walls.

Promises and Opportunities

In his articulation of the “Dominican Option,” Chad Pecknold calls for the flourishing of an evangelical “contrast society.”[29] In the realm of education, Catholic schools may offer a vision of the person and education that the world sorely needs. Working in and with the City of Man—as Archbishop Chaput might have it—to extend Catholic education to more families, especially lower-income families, seems correspondent with the Great Commission (cf. Matt 28:16-20). Further, when the 1884 3rd Plenary Council of Baltimore decreed that all American parishes should establish schools and that the faithful be obliged to patronize them, the bishops were not concerned with establishing civic or economic preparation institutions. They were convinced that a full Christian life required a Christian education. Today, for a variety of reasons, Catholic schooling is often the province of the wealthy. Any opportunity to place Catholic education within the reach of all families must be taken seriously.

Aside from any obvious evangelical or catechetical avenues, school choice programs may offer the Church opportunities to leaven broader society. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has consistently advocated for the expansion of choice programs, as a parent’s freedom to determine the best education for their child is a fundamental human right.[30] Pope Paul VI’s 1965 declaration on Christian education affirmed,

Parents who have the primary and inalienable right and duty to educate their children must enjoy true liberty in their choice of schools. Consequently, the public power, which has the obligation to protect and defend the rights of citizens, must see to it, in its concern for distributive justice, that public subsidies are paid out in such a way that parents are truly free to choose according to their conscience the schools they want for their children.[31]

These calls echo Article 26 of the 1948 United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, which holds both that elementary education should be freely provided and that “Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.”[32] Interestingly, it was Elenore Roosevelt, the American delegate, who fought hardest against this latter clause during the drafting of Article 26.[33]

Advocacy for voucher programs may have the effect of humanizing the American legal system, or at least making it open to a plurality of cultural and religious expressions. Legal scholars Richard Garnett and Joseph Viteritti have argued vigorously against the prudence and justice of Blaine Amendments. These statutes exist in more than 35 states and are so named for House Speaker James Blaine, who campaigned to prevent aid to Catholic schools during the late 19th century. The language of most of the amendments bars state aid to “sectarian” schools, which at the time indicated non-Protestant institutions. Garnett wisely notes that condemning these laws as merely the products of anti-Catholic bigotry is a narrow view of the story. More importantly, their existence serves to perpetuate ideas of rationality and citizenship which leaves little room for spiritual expression in public life. [34] By promoting plurality in educational provision, the American Church might open space for religious conviction in the civic sphere.

Similarly, the expansion of school choice may encourage a return to social habits that are more consistent with the Church’s social vision. Certainly, the obvious arguments for subsidiarity are appropriate here. Education is perhaps the most personal of those areas of life that is currently the province of American government. An increased state and federal role in schooling during the 20th century was accompanied by an expansion of standardized testing and other impersonal (and depersonalizing) mechanisms. The Pontifical Council for Peace and Justice warns against transferring the social functions of mediating institutions “to other social entities of a higher level, by which they would end up being absorbed and substituted, in the end seeing themselves denied their dignity and essential place.” Voucher programs, which place educational decisions in the hands of small communities and require mere subsidium—assistance—from larger government bodies seem to perfectly correspond to the Church’s definition of subsidiarity.[35]

Additionally, as R.R. Reno has recently noted, many choice programs—especially scholarship tax credits—require parents and communities to build and strengthen social networks.[36] Schools must seek out students and invite them to visit the school; donors will meet with students and form relationships with faculty; faculty will more easily realize their role in loco parentis.  Further, programs that might generate a plurality of local institutions in the place of centralized ones might help rehabilitate our loyalties. William Cavanaugh has recently described how the modern nation-state appropriates expectations and devotions that are more properly reserved for religious communities.[37] Indeed, we often hear that public education arguably constitutes America’s most precious civil religion. We place our hopes for human progress, justice, and national harmony in the public schools and are invariably disappointed.[38] It may be that voucher programs encourage citizens to place their hopes closer to home and closer to the transcendent ideals they desire.

Finally, school choice programs may allow the Church to better serve the poor. There is ample evidence that Catholic schools serving low-income urban students are more “successful”—whether success is measured by test scores, drop-out rates, future educational attainment, or community vitality—than their public counterparts.[39] Margaret Brinig and Nicole Garnett’s recent work, Lost Classroom, Lost Community, details how Catholic school closures trigger the unraveling of social networks which are critical to poor urban neighborhoods. Their study utilized data from a large survey of Chicago neighborhoods to show how Catholic school closures were correlated with subsequent drops in indicators of perceived social and physical disorder and social cohesion. The positive community effects of parochial schools are not simply due to their independent status or ties to the community. Chicago charter schools, unlike their Catholic counterparts, had little to no correlation with neighborhood social capital. Brinig and Garnett point to the extensive literature in the sociology of religion, which suggests that religious institutions are inimitable generators of social capital.[40] Further, there is some evidence that school choice programs encourage racial integration much more than current public school systems.[41] Especially in an age of strict residential segregation, choice programs might serve to mitigate the effects of discriminatory housing practices.

In short, conscientious Catholics may have good reason to support voucher and similar state aid programs. The Church is called to be concerned with human flourishing, and Catholic schools are demonstrably unique in their contributions to families and communities. The expansion of choice programs might allow more families, especially those with few financial means, to experience a Catholic education. Just as many Catholic charitable organizations embrace state aid (and indeed, in a limited way, many Catholic schools currently accept IDEA and Title I funds), Catholic schools might leverage school choice programs to extend the Church’s work in the world. Further, the legal battles and social transformations that would accompany voucher advocacy may be an opportunity to humanize American government and society.

Conclusion: Weighing “Options”

I would like to conclude with a few brief comments that might guide reflection on the prudence of embracing voucher programs. First, it seems that many of the reasons we might be reticent involve fears of future coercive state action. Perhaps St. Benedict was similarly inspired by a vision of Western civilization’s future decline. If these fears are prophetic, we may do well to decline state aid.  Of course, if they are merely “alarmist,” as James K.A. Smith has insinuated, we should reevaluate our misplaced anxieties.[42] Secondly, applying the “Augustine option” to this case carries an interesting twist. While the residents of the City of God are called to engage with and even renew the Earthly City, in the case of choice programs, Catholic schools are often placing themselves in the hands of the Earthly City. We may reasonably doubt whether we can trust the City of Man and should be especially cautious in the realm of education, where children are the primary concern.

Finally, I think there is one option we cannot take—the Albigensian option. I think certain readings of Rod Dreher’s ideas might lead us to disdain the world to such an extent as to leave nothing behind. While the homeschooling movement has constituted a beautiful educational revolution, I do not think we can completely give up on Catholic schools. We need solid, enduring institutions to preserve our cultural memory. Benedict founded a monastery.  Christ founded a Church. The Church needs strong Catholic schools, so we cannot dismiss the opportunity presented by school choice programs without careful consideration.


The Practice of Catholicism and Modern Identity

Featured Image: Griffon Vulture (Gyps fulvus) flying against a fiery afternoon sun, in Spain, 9 July 2014, by Arturo de Frias Marques; Source: Wikimedia, CC BY-SA 4.0.

[1] Michelle Goldberg, “Donald Trump, The Religious Right’s Trojan Horse,” New York Times (January 27, 2017);  Abraham Van Engen, “Advancing God’s Kingdom: Calvinism, Calvin College, and Betsey DeVos,” Religion and Politics (January 30, 2017). Accessed March 29, 2017.

[2] See Carl Kaestle, Pillars of the Republic: Common Schools and American Society, 1780-1860 (New York: Hill and Wang, 1983).

[3] Robert Crunden, Ministers of Reform: The Progressive’s Achievement in American Civilization, 1889-1920 (Champagne, Ill.: University of Illinois Press, 1985).

[4] Lemon v. Kurtzman. 403 U.S. 602 (1971).

[5] Rod Dreher, The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation (Maquoketa, LA: Sentinel Press, 2017).

[6] Charles Chaput, “Awakenings: Living as a Believer in the Nation We Have Now,” First Things (March 22, 2016).

[7] Los Angeles Times Editorial Board, “Why Donald Trump’s School Voucher Plan Can’t Be as Big—or Bad—as Promised,” Los Angeles Times (November 23, 2016).

[8] HR 610, which seeks to repeal the latest reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, is discussed below.

[9] Milton Friedman, “The Role of Government in Education,” in Economics and the Public Interest, ed. Robert A Solo (New Brunswick, NJ.: Rutgers University Press, 1955): 123–144.

[10] In Catholic circles, the notion that the “grammar of schooling” and typical public school curricula alienate communities of color often goes unnoticed.  See for example, John Ogbu, “Literacy and Schooling in Subordinate Cultures: The Case of Black Americans,” in Going to School: the African American Experience, ed. Kofi Lomotey (New York: SUNY Press, 1990): 113-131; David Tyack and William Tobin. “The “Grammar” of Schooling: Why Has it Been So Hard to Change?,” American Educational Research Journal 31, no. 3 (1994): 453-479; Martin Scanlan, “The Grammar of Catholic Schooling and Radically ‘Catholic’ Schools,” Journal of Catholic Education 12, no. 1 (2008): 25-54.

[11] “Explore School Choice Programs Across the Nation,” Center for Education Reform. Accessed March 29, 2017.

[12] “School Choice Facts,” American Federation for Children Growth Fund. Accessed March 29, 2017.

[13] Joseph Massucci and Timothy Ilg, “School Vouchers: Blessed or Curse for Catholic High Schools?,” Catholic Education: A Journal of Inquiry and Practice 6, no. 3 (March 2003):352-361.

[14] David Tyack, The One Best System: A History of American Urban Education (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1974), 118.

[15] Johnathan H. Adler, “Court blocks federal government’s ‘guidance’ on transgender bathrooms,” Washington Post (August 22, 2016).

[16] Although there have been promises that revised versions of the bill will remove references to homeschooling, the legislation on record as of March 30th, 2017 includes the clauses HSLDA finds objectionable.  See

[17] Will Estrada and Mike Smith, “Urgent Action Needed: Congress Attempting to Give Federal Government Money to Homeschools.” Electronic communication from Homeschool Legal Defense Association.  Received February 10, 2017.

[18] Charles L. Glenn, Contrasting Models of State and School: A Comparative Historical Study of Parental Choice and State Control (New York: Continuum, 2011), 204-5.

[19] On the decline of metaphysics as a basis for public discourse and the emergence of statistics in its place, see Robert C. Bannister, Sociology and Scientism: The American Quest for Objectivity, 1880-1940 (Chapel Hill: UNC Press, 1991) and John M. Jordan, Machine-Age Ideology: Social Engineering and American Liberalism, 1911-1939 (Chapel Hill: UNC Press, 2010), 1–6. On the emergence of “hyperpluralism” in Western societies, see Brad Gregory, The Unintended Reformation: How a Religious Revolution Secularized Society (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2011).

[20] Everson v. Board of Education. 330 U.S. 1 (1947); McCollum v. Board of Education. 333 U.S. 203 (1948); Lemon v. Kurtzman. 403 U.S. 602 (1971).

[21] Valerie E. Lee and Peter Blakeley Holland, Catholic Schools and the Common Good (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1993); J.P. Greene, “Civic Values in Public and Private Schools,” in Learning from School Choice, eds. P. E. Peterson and B. C. Hassel (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution, 1998): 83-106; J.P. Greene, N. Mellow, and J. Giammo, “Private Schools and the Public Good: The Effect of Private Education on Political Participation and Tolerance in the Texas Poll,” Journal of Catholic Education 2, no. 4 (1999): 429-443; Frank Willem, Eddie Denessen, Chris Hermans, Paul Vermeer, “Citizenship Education in Religious Schools: An Analysis of Tolerance in Catholic Schools from a Virtue Ethical Point of View,” Journal of Beliefs & Values 31, no. 2 (August 2010): 215-229.

[22] John Rawls, A Theory of Justice (Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press, 1971).

[23] Amy Gutmann, Democratic Education (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1987); Stephen Macedo, Liberal Virtues: Citizenship, Virtue, and Community in Liberal Constitutionalism (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1991); Eamonn Callan, Creating Citizens: Political Education and Liberal Democracy (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997).

[24] The most infamous of these was the actions of the Prince Edward County, Virginia school district, which ceased operations from 1959 to 1964.  See Wilbur B. Brookover, “Education in Prince Edward County, Virginia, 1953-1993,” The Journal of Negro Education 62, no. 2 (1993): 149-161. See also Kevin M. Kruse, White Flight: Atlanta and the Making of Modern Conservatism (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2005), 162-163.

[25] For comparisons of public and private school enrollments across sectors, see John T. Yun and Sean Reardon, “Private School Racial Enrollments and Segregation,” in School Choice and Diversity: What the Evidence Says, ed. J. Scott (New York: Teachers College Press, 2005), 42-58.  For data on enrollment in urban Catholic schools, see Margaret F. Brinig and Nicole Stelle Garnett, Lost Classroom, Lost Community: Catholic Schools’ Importance in Urban America (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2014), 2-3, 61.

[26] See Jay Greene “Choosing Integration,” in School Choice and Diversity: What the Evidence Says, ed. J. Scott (New York: Teachers College Press, 2005): 27-41.  Greene cites Robert Crain’s “Index of Exposure” as one better measurement of integration.  Robert Crain, “Private Schools and Black-White Segregation: Evidence from Two Big Cities,” Institute for Research on Educational Finance and Government, Stanford University, ERIC document #259430, 1984.

[27] For example, see Francis Cardinal George, “Dwell in My Love: A Pastoral Letter on Racism,” Archdiocese of Chicago, 2012. Accessed March 30, 2017.; Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, “The Church and Racism: Towards a More Fraternal Society,” 2001. Accessed March 30, 2017.

[28] Rod Dreher, “Benedict Option FAQ,” The American Conservative (October 6, 2015).  Accessed March 30, 2017.

[29] C.C. Pecknold, “The Dominican Option,” First Things (October 6, 2014).  Accessed March 30, 2017.

[30] United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Secretariat of Catholic Education, “Our Greatest and Best Inheritance: Catholic Schools and Parental Choice” (January 13, 2014).  Accessed March 30, 2017,

[31] Paul VI, Gravissimum Educationis [Declaration of Christian Education], October 28, 1965, § 6. Accessed March 30th, 2017,

[32] UN General Assembly, “Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” 217 (III) A (Paris, 1948), § 26.3. Accessed March 30, 2017,

[33] UNESCO World Education Report, The Writing of Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (New York: UNESCO, 2000).

[34] See Joseph P. Viteritti, Blaine’s Wake: School Choice, the First Amendment, and State Constitutional Law, Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy 21 (1998): 657-673.; Richard W. Garnett, “The Theology of the Blaine Amendments,” First Amendment Law Review 2 (2004).

[35] Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church (April 2, 2004), , § 185-188.; quotation from 186.  Accessed March 30, 2017.

[36] R.R. Reno, “While We’re at It,” First Things (March, 2017).

[37] William Cavanaugh, Migrations of the Holy: God, State, and the Political Meaning of the Church (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2011).

[38] Carl Bankston and Stephen, Caldas, Public Education, America’s Civil Religion: A Social History (New York: Teachers College Press, 2009).

[39] For example, see Anthony S. Bryk, Valerie E. Lee, Peter B. Holland, Catholic Schools and the Common Good (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1993); William N. Evans and Robert M. Schwab, “Finishing High School and Starting College: Do Catholic Schools Make a Difference?,“ Quarterly Journal of Economics 110, no. 4 (1995): 941-974; William Sander, Anthony Krautmann, “Catholic Schools, Dropout Rates, and Educational Attainment,” Economic Inquiry 33, no. 2 (1995): 217-233;  William Sander, “Catholic Grade Schools and Academic Achievement,” The Journal of Human Resources 31, no. 3 (1996): 540-48; Joseph G. Altonji, Todd E. Elder, and Christopher R. Taber, “Selection on Observed and Unobserved Variables: Assessing the Effectiveness of Catholic Schools,” Journal of Political Economy 113, no. 1 (2005), 151-184.

[40] Brinig and Garnette, Lost Classroom, Lost Community, 57-75.

[41] Greene, “Choosing Integration.”

[42] James K.A. Smith, “The New Alarmism: How Some Christians Are Stoking Fear Rather than Hope,” Washington Post (March 10, 2017).

Brett Bertucio

Brett Bertucio is a doctoral student in education policy and curriculum and instruction at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.