Ypsilantians are running scared. Nearly everyone in the Detroit suburb is Polish and Catholic and wants to keep his children that way (not necessarily in that order). This means parochial schools, but they are a white-collar luxury in this blue-collar town. The high cost of Catholic education has the 300-student parochial high school on the brink of closing. To Ypsilanti’s 25,000 citizens, that could play havoc—$150,000 worth a year. Even a much larger community would find it hard to absorb 300 new students overnight.
Yet what is happening in Ypsilanti threatens to happen from Hartford to Helena. Catholics just can’t afford to maintain their freedom of choice in education and pay for public education as well. Where once an occasional school would be closed, now, as in Connecticut, parochial systems in entire states threaten to close, swamping taxpayers with education bills many Catholics feel fellow citizens should have been helping with all along. Time may be running out when public-school budgets can use the “free” money more than two million Catholic taxpayers with children in church schools have been paying over the years.
Threats to close the schools have become common—especially every biennium, when many states convene their legislatures. No fewer than nine states now have school-aid fights going on. Many proponents feel that under President Nixon they have a good chance to accomplish an important church-state breakthrough in federal aid to parochial schools. Bland remarks by the American Catholic hierarchy on Vatican recognition may tie in. The bishops—though they are cool to the recognition idea for other reasons—don’t want to raise the hackles of Protestants and Jews more than necessary while major school money issues ...1
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