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Pro: Parents should be able to choose where kids learn

By BY CAROLINA ASTRAIN - CASTRAIN@VICAD.COM
Jan. 27, 2013 at 10:02 p.m.
Updated Jan. 26, 2013 at 7:27 p.m.

Students gather their things in the hallway to leave for the day at Victoria private high school St. Joseph High School.

Although she got only a taste of private school in kindergarten, middle school student Jillian Brooks said she wants to go back.

"It would be awesome to have the option," said the 11-year-old Howell Middle School student. "In private school, it was more one-on-one and easier to learn."

If the Legislature approves private school vouchers, Jillian's dreams of returning to a private education may come true.

Conservatives in the Legislature are quickly joining state Rep. Dan Patrick, a Republican from Houston, in arguing for vouchers.

Supporters cite low standardized test scores and low attendance rates at public schools as reasons to switch to private schools.

St. Joseph High School parent Marylouise Allen said she thinks parents should have the option of sending their students to private schools.

"It should be the parent's choice," Allen said. "I believe those taxes should go toward vouchers and equal opportunity."

The Victoria resident, a former substitute teacher who has worked in both public and private schools, said she doesn't think much has changed since the opening of the two new high schools in the Victoria school district.

"The main problem at the public high schools lies in lack of student discipline," Allen said. "At private schools, parents and administrators work together to help their students succeed. It takes a village."

The St. Joseph parent said she believes religion also plays an role in providing a well-behaved academic setting.

"It helps create a cohesive environment," Allen said. "These students have a different mindset than public school kids."

After the Victoria school board members approved a resolution against vouchers, Trinity Episcopal School parent John Kirkpatrick said he was baffled by their response.

"I am, in fact, insulted that they believe they have the right to act as 'Big Brother' over the decision-making process of the fine parents of Victoria County as to where we choose to educate our children," Kirkpatrick said. "They just need to get over their obsession that money is the only way to fix problems and try a little old-fashion innovation."

While he would welcome the additional funds, Catholic Diocese of Victoria Superintendent John Quarry said the protection of faith at religious schools would be paramount.

"We like to allow our students a personalized education for their lives," Quarry said. "Teachers must feel free to modify the manner in which they deliver the curriculum."

Our Lady of Victory School and Nazareth Academy are among the 13 private schools spread across 10 counties in the diocese.

Tuition for elementary-level students within the diocese averages $5,000, making private school for elementary school students a real possibility for disadvantaged families with the voucher system.

All students who are part of the diocese take an annual testing of skills similar to public schools through the Iowa Test of Basic Skills, the superintendent said.

Trinity Episcopal School principal Michael Brown said he does not foresee a spike in private school tuition with the passing of vouchers.

"If anything, the passing of vouchers could slow down the process of increasing tuition," Brown said. "Tuition is determined based upon the strategic plan, mission, and needs of the school."

Related stories:

Con: Keep state money in public schools

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