Educators in Catholic schools throughout south Georgia came to Augusta for their annual Educational Institute Feb. 15-17. Most of these dedicated men and women make only 80 percent of what similar educators in our public schools are paid. This financial sacrifice that they make is a great response to your “Free our children” editorial Feb. 13. I am heartened that the editors of The Augusta Chronicle believe that school choice should be “the civil rights movement of the 21st century.” And I believe Catholic schools should be included in the mix of choices.
Catholic education has long been characterized by a commitment to high and appropriate standards in all aspects of its educational mission. The history of Catholic schooling embodies a constant effort to promote academic excellence for a diverse group of students in an environment permeated by religious values and beliefs. However, the mission and purpose of Catholic schools is larger than attainment of academic competency.
Commitment to the full development of the spiritual and moral as well as the academic potential of the student is a primary focus for teachers in Catholic schools. Thus, our Catholic schools offer not only an excellent education, but we also help our students become productive citizens.
Our children truly will be free when their parents have a variety of options from which to choose: public; private; religious; charter schools; or home schooling. The common good of society is advanced by helping parents to exercise fully their right to direct the upbringing of their children through the educational program of their choice. School choice can promote academic excellence by creating a competitive climate, responsive to parental concerns and directed toward improved student performance.
Social justice requires that all parents, especially those of low and limited income whose children are underserved by the public schools, be given meaningful opportunities to create and have their children educated in the schools of their choice, whether it be a public, private, religious or charter school.
The Rev. Jerry Ragan
(The writer is pastor of St. Mary on the Hill Church and School.)