Southwest News Herald
The rallying cry for “School Choice” was heard loud and clear on the morning of Sept. 25 at St. Daniel the Prophet School in Chicago.
Parents, administrators, teachers and local political leaders attended the rally in the parking lot at St. Dan’s, 5337 S. Natoma Ave., in support of School Choice.
The group of supporters, which includes the Chicago Archdiocese, states that parents should be given the ability to choose the education best suited to their child’s needs and desires.
School Choice rallies were held throughout the state at Catholic schools and other private institutions on Sept. 25. A rally also was held that morning in front of the State of Illinois building.
Rallies also were held at other Southwest Side Catholic schools, including St. Symphorosa, 6125 S. Austin Ave., Chicago.
“We think that parents who make the sacrifice to send their children to St. Daniel should receive some help,” said Mary Porod, principal at St. Daniel, which has the largest enrollment of neighborhood Southwest Side elementary schools, trailing only St. John Fisher in Chicago’s West Beverly neighborhood.
“School legislation is part of a growing trend nationwide and would improve Illinois’ educational choices for students and enable parents to find the best fit for their child,” Porod said. “There are over 2.2 million children in Illinois schools. Parents who send their children to non-public schools already save Illinois over $1 billion per year.”
Joining Porod on the school steps were state Sen. Martin Sandoval (D-11th), state Rep. Silvana Tabares (D-21st) and Chicago Ald. Mike Zalewski (23rd). Cong. Dan Lipinski (D-3rd) joined them later after visiting St. Symphorosa, his alma mater.
“You are entitled to a great education,” Zalewski said. “Every time I come out to St. Dan’s it renews my energy. It reminds me of what a great community Garfield Ridge is and what a great school you have here.”
“I went to a Catholic grade school, high school and Catholic university,” Sandoval added. “It’s all about great schools on the Southwest Side. It’s moms and dads making financial sacrifices to get their children a great education.”
Sandoval said parents pay their fair share in taxes, including for Chicago Public School students. Parents who send their children to schools like St. Daniel should be provided with some financial assistance, Sandoval said.
Improved school choice legislation would allow state and federal tax dollars to be spent on education in a more fair manner, according to Porod.
“Our St. Daniel the Prophet School community is joining parents, educators and community members across the state to show state legislators the growing support for School Choice, illustrating how parents can be empowered to choose public, charter, private, or sectarian school for their child,” Porod said.
“We need our elected officials to take our message to Springfield,” Porod said. “It would be a good thing. I thank the parents for their sacrifices.”
Lipinski told the crowd he was blessed that his parents sent to him to Catholic schools.
“Thank you, parents, for sending your kids to Catholic schools,” he said. “And I thank the teachers who often work for less pay.”
Lipinski was later asked about critics of School Choice, who say that it’s a breach of church and state.
The congressman responded that funding has been provided for Catholic hospitals and universities. Lipinski asked why Catholic high schools and elementary schools can’t be given the same consideration.
Lipinski said these decisions have to be addressed at the state level. But he added that he has co-sponsored legislation for Opportunity Scholarships, which provides parents the freedom to choose a private school for their children, using all or part of the public funding set aside for their children’s education.
Under such a program, funds expended by a school district would be allocated to a participating family in the form of a scholarship to pay partial or full tuition for a child’s private school, including both religious and non-religious options.