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No public benefit if state funds private schools

Posted: February 20, 2014 - 1:09am

As someone who was educated in Catholic schools through graduate school, I take exception to Bishop Edward Burns’ columns supporting SJR9 (HJR1) and aligning with Gov. Sean Parnell to amend the state constitution to allow public funds to flow into religious or private schools.

Although the Catholic Church would benefit from public funds diverted to Catholic schools, the public certainly would not. Changing the state constitution to accommodate school vouchers destroys the wall of separation between church and state that the Alaska Constitution writers, Thomas Jefferson and our other founders believed in. This action would erode democracy, as the civic mission of public schools is to educate American citizens.

Public schools were created to provide an equitable education for all children, not only because we believe that all are created equal, but because we believe that having well-educated citizens is essential for the common good. We can only guarantee that through a public school system, not through a patchwork system of private, religious and public schools requiring costly oversight.

I have no quarrel with the bishop’s assertion that Catholic education can contribute to the educational system, but it is bad public policy to pay for it with public funds. My family paid for my Catholic education and would never have expected the government to pay.

In 1960, President John F. Kennedy, the first and only Catholic president, declared in a speech about religion: “I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute … where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference. …”

Both the U.S. Constitution and the Alaska Constitution provide for separation of church and state with good reason. Byron Mallott understands that, which is why I am supporting him for governor.

Bridget Smith

Juneau

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