Education Savings Accounts will give parents a choice

By Fr. Mark Neal, Letter to the Editor, The Des Moines Register

I would like to respond to the Jan. 25 letter from Dewitt Jones, “School vouchers are a slippery slope,” concerning “vouchers” for non-public schools. To begin, the Legislature is considering Education Savings Accounts (ESAs). My understanding of the proposal is that the amount of the ESA would be closer to $6,000 for each student, not the $8,824 quoted by Mr. Jones. Federal aid and property tax funds would remain with the public school district.

Mr. Jones states that the current tuition in private and parochial schools is $7,000. Speaking for the Catholic elementary schools in central Iowa, the tuition is in the $3,000-3,500 range. Mr. Jones states, “Poor families cannot afford this, and most of the time, these are minorities.” To make such a generalization is not only inaccurate, it is also offensive.

As the pastor of a Catholic church and school, I can say that many of our students come from families with little in the way of material resources. It is our goal that no student who wants a Catholic education be turned away for lack of financial resources and we have a number of sources to help in achieving this goal. When a family comes to us we do all in power to make it work without regard to their race or financial means. The passage of ESAs would further help to make this a reality for more families and allow parents to truly have a choice in the education of their children.

I would like to invite Mr. Jones to come and visit St. Theresa Catholic School and see what our parochial schools are accomplishing and providing to the community.

— Father Mark Neal, St. Theresa Catholic Church and School

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