Fewer Chicago Catholic schools are likely to face the prospect of closing because of a change in approach since Cardinal Francis George took over the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago in May 1997. Instead of waiting for the recommendations of a special task force that was expected to recommend dozens of school closings, last November George called for further consultation with pastors and principals.
“Cardinal George has made it clear that he considers it almost a failure on the part of the church to close a school,” the Cardinal’s second-in-command, Bishop Raymond Goedert, told Chicago Tribune reporter Steve Kloehn. “As a result, we’ve backed off the initial recommendations,” he added.”
George’s predecessor, Cardinal Joseph Bernadin, established the Special Task Force on Catholic Schools to resolve the recurring annual debate over individual school closings by deciding just what the archdiocese could afford to support on an ongoing basis. With George’s intervention, a final report is not expected soon.
May 6, 1998
Governor Expands Iowa Tuition Tax Credit
On May 6, Iowa Governor Terry Branstad signed into law a bill that increases the state’s tuition tax credit from 10 percent to 25 percent of the first $1,000 of tuition expenses, or from $100 to $250. Branstad, a strong advocate for nongovernment schools, had made an increase in the credit an important part of his plans to improve education in Iowa.
The bill expands the definition of allowable tuition and textbook expenses to include “those expenses which relate to extracurricular activities including sporting events, musical or dramatic events, speech activities, driver’s education, or programs of a similar nature.” This is expected to benefit pupils in both government and nongovernment schools, with an expected cost of $3.8 million.
Drafted by the Governor’s office, the bill was passed by the House on March 26, after an amendment to roll back the credit to 10 percent was defeated by a vote of 58 to 19. The Senate approved the bill on April 15 with no amendatory restrictions.
Iowa Catholic Conference Newsletter
May 7, 1998
Murder Conviction for “Full Inclusion” Student
Three years after raping and murdering 15-year-old fellow student Christine Smetzer at McCluer North High School, behavior-disordered student Michael Taylor was found guilty of the crime and now will spend the rest of his life in prison. The verdict was recently handed down by a jury in Missouri’s St. Louis County Circuit Court.
A special education student who had been diagnosed with behavior disorders two years before the attack, Taylor initially was supervised in a tightly controlled environment, but after a few months he was transferred to a regular school for half of his classes as a result of the state’s “full inclusion” policy. Within two years, he was given a schedule with all regular classes and transferred to McCluer North with no papers to indicate his troubled history. He murdered Smetzer one day after the transfer.
Although state law now requires that records of a student’s violent behavior follow him or her to a new school, Education Reporter notes that many parents still remain concerned because sometimes a student is transferred but the records are not.
Tuition Tax Credit Introduced in New York
A new bill authorizing a $500 tax credit for tuition and home schooling expenses has been introduced into the New York state Assembly. The bill, assigned to committees in both the House and Senate, permits a $500 credit against personal income taxes to offset contributions to a school tuition scholarship organization, cash contributions to a public school, or purchases of instructional materials for nonpublic home-based educational programs.
According to the bill’s sponsors, Republican Senator Serphin R. Maltese and Democratic Assemblyman Dov Hikind, the measure would achieve fiscal savings because of the voluntary contributions to public schools and because the tuition scholarships would help reduce the student population in public schools. They also note that the tax credit provided in the bill is merely one of many credits available to New York taxpayers.
“Children should be afforded other educational choices in addition to the public schools in their district of residence,” contend the two legislators. They add, “Encouraging wholesome competition between public and nonpublic schools will promote the state’s interest in providing the highest quality education to all children in the state.”
New York State Assembly
A Nation At Risk
A superintendent of a large district recently said to me: “If we do not call the children ‘At Risk’ children, we cannot receive federal funding.” And, ah, there’s the rub.
As long as we call the children ‘At Risk’ children, they will then be taught as ‘At Risk’ children living in ‘At Risk’ communities having been taught by ‘At Risk’ teachers funded by an ‘At Risk’ government.
The circle becomes complete. As long as the government funds ‘At Risk’ students, we, as a nation and a people, will always be ‘At Risk’ citizens.
Phonics Vs. Whole Language
The phonics-based approach to reading instruction starts with a child learning the sounds of letters and then using this explicitly learned decoding skill to progress to reading words on a page and understanding their meaning. The whole-language approach flips this sequence in reverse and starts with the child understanding the meaning of words on a page and then using this to develop intuitively learned decoding skills.
Research supports phonics, not whole language. In fact, after an extensive review, Maggie Bruck, associate professor of psychology and pediatrics at McGill University in Montreal, reported she had been unable to find “a single example published in a major peer-reviewed journal that showed that whole language worked.”
“If learning to read unfolds naturally, why does our literate society have so many youngsters and adults who are illiterate?” asks reading research expert G. Reid Lyon, chief of the Child Development and Behavior Branch at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.