How does President Johnson’s record federal investment plan for education square with the American principle of separation of church and state?

While he does not refer to parochial schools as such, either in his State of the Union speech or in his special message to Congress on education, the President obviously tries in his proposals to meet Roman Catholics half-way in their demand for a share in federal aid to education programs. The means he uses are tantamount to a wholehearted federal endorsement of the shared-time concept, wherein parochial and other independent school students take some of their classes in public educational facilities.

“I propose that we declare a national goal of full educational opportunity,” Johnson said. “Every child must be encouraged to get as much education as he has the ability to take.”

Observing that “nothing matters more to the future of our country,” the President went on to outline his recommendation for a budget on education totaling $4.1 billion for the next fiscal year. This figure includes $1.5 billion he is requesting for new programs.

Administration sources have been quoted as saying that youngsters in parochial and other independent schools would benefit from about 15 per cent of the overall federal outlay requested for education. That percentage was said to have been chosen because it is thought to represent the number of non-public-school students in the total school population.

Ultimate distribution of the money will vary according to implementation of the aid program at state and local school-board levels. To some extent, Johnson may be seeking to avoid the constitutional issue in public funds for parochial schools by leaving the decision up to the states. He also attempts to get ...

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