Living through this COVID pandemic has resulted in many lessons learned, including what can — and cannot — be done over Zoom.
But something almost everyone agrees must be face-to-face is classroom learning. Parents, students, Democrats and Republicans all mostly say the same thing: Our kids need in-person education to succeed.
Our Catholic schools recognize this, and as early as the fall of 2020 — before vaccines were available — Catholic schools committed to opening their classrooms and keeping them open.
Perhaps it is no surprise that Catholic schools in Michigan and across the nation are in high demand among families seeking new options for their children’s education.
In February, MLive reported that six of Michigan’s seven dioceses experienced enrollment increases for the school year that started in the fall of 2021. According to the report, “the primary motivator for many families has been the Catholic schools’ commitment to in-person learning during the pandemic.”
According to the National Catholic Education Association (NCEA), nationwide enrollment in Catholic schools increased by 62,000 to about 1.68 million students, marking the first increase in two decades and the largest jump in at least five decades.
As Renee Hornby, principal of St. Joseph Catholic School in Howell, told MLive, “As Catholics, we know how important the person is and education is no exception. People and the presence of each other are center to our success.”
Amidst the uncertainty in the ongoing COVID landscape, parents are assessing all options and seeking choices they feel best furthers their kids’ learning.
With that in mind, a campaign has launched to put more money directly in the hands of parents to pay for the education expenses their kids need — tuition, tutors or technology, for example — regardless of the type of school they attend, whether it’s public, private or home school.
The idea is that these scholarships help parents make the choices to improve their children’s education or help them catch up from the learning lost from these past two COVID years.
The proposed law would set up a scholarship program that low-income families can apply to for education expenses for their children. The scholarships would be funded by donors who would receive a tax credit for their donation to the scholarship.
The campaign to enact this proposal — headed by the Let MI Kids Learn group — is coming by way of a citizens initiative, meaning that more than 340,000 registered Michigan voters have to properly sign the petition to have it presented to the Legislature, which can make it law.
This is happening now because similar legislation to enact the scholarships was approved by the Legislature but vetoed by the Governor. If this initiative were passed by the Legislature, it would become law without needing the Governor’s approval.
The Catholic bishops of Michigan support the proposal because it would give parents more options and would provide low-income families with choice in their children’s education.
As a result, Catholic parishes and schools in every diocese across the state are receiving petition forms and instructions on how to sign them and collect signatures. We encourage you to get involved in some way — to add your signature, or to collect signatures from your family and friends.
Time is of the essence — signed petitions should be submitted by early May, ahead of the final deadline of June 1 to submit them to the state for consideration. So now is the time to act.
If this proposal becomes law, it could empower more people to join the many others who have chosen Catholic education for their children — an education grounded in building up the whole person.
But it bears repeating that this would expand opportunities for students in any school, making this proposal universal in its promotion of educational justice.
We encourage you, not only as Catholics, but as citizens dedicated to building up the common good, to do what you can to advance this nonpartisan proposal. For more information, visit the website for the Let MI Kids Learn campaign at letmikidslearn.com or reach out to your local parish to see how you can get involved.
The Word from Lansing is a regular column for Catholic news outlets. Through these columns, MCC outlines current advocacy issues of importance to the Conference and discusses the Catholic position and role in the political process. This publication complements the more regular updates provided by MCC’s Catholic Advocacy Network. Michigan Catholic Conference is the official public policy voice of the Catholic Church in this state.