Governor Christie is a practicing Catholic. He and his wife have chosen to send their children to Catholic Schools. They can also afford to do so. However, he is mindful of the basic injustice involved when other parents are trapped by a system which does not allow them to do what is best for their children. "A single mother in Newark working two jobs to keep a roof over her child's head should have no less ability to make that choice than my wife and I had."
WASHINGTON, DC (Catholic Online) - Since his election as the first Republican Governor of New Jersey in twelve years, Catholic Governor Christopher J. "Chris" Christie has been making news! He was the keynote speaker at the American Federation of Children National Policy Summit Dinner in Washington, D.C. on Monday, May 3, 2010. Once again he surprised observers with his candor - and his refreshing willingness to shake up the "same old/same old" approach to politics and public policy.
He strongly endorsed parental choice in education or what is often called "School Choice".
He told those gathered for the Summit: ". Parents and children deserve a choice.parents and children who are being failed by a public school system who's costs are exorbitant, and who's results are insulting, deserve a choice. And you know we don't have to look far around the country from where we are right now to know that voucher programs and experiments in school choice are working that they're producing results. "You know here in D.C... those in that program are now reading 19 months ahead of their colleagues who are outside that program. This isn't a coincidence. We know that it's not a coincidence. We know that there (are) over five million children trapped in over ten thousand failing public schools around America - and I use the word trapped - and I use it directly. They are trapped by an educational bureaucracy. They are trapped by a selfish, self-interested, greedy, school union that cares more about putting money in their own pockets and in the pockets of members than they care about educating our most vulnerable and needy children around the country. ." Now, those kinds of strong statements not only show courage, for which the Governor should be commended, they also - and sadly - present an accurate assessment of the experience of too many chidren and parents. The Governor is calling for a voucher system in New Jersey which will allow all parents the same choice that he and his wife had; to choose where to send their children to school from among the full array of options, public, private, charter, private or parochial. Governor Christie is a practicing Catholic. He and his wife have chosen to send their children to Catholic Schools. They can also afford to do so. However, he is mindful of the basic injustice involved when other parents are trapped by a system which does not allow them to do what is best for their children. He was equally frank in addressing this reality, "A single mother in Newark working two jobs to keep a roof over her child's head should have no less ability to make that choice than my wife and I had." "School Choice", or more accurately, "Parental Choice" - since parents are the ones who should make the decision - is one of the areas where the claim of concern for children expressed in some sectors of the educational establishment rings hollow. The unwillingness of those in charge of the Federal Educational Bureaucracy to consider this approach at a time when we all know the educational system is broken exposes the difference between rhetoric and reality. Parental Choice in education is an important issue - one which needs to come to the forefront in the fall election campaigns. Hopefully, Governor Christie has opened the door for just such a needed National debate. For those who will lead the coming debate, I have a suggestion. Rather than focus on the word "School" - which is then used to arouse a "public" school vs. "private" school debate - we should use the term "Parental Choice". After all, it is Parents who are the first teachers of their children and the family is the first school. That is really where the debate should focus. To support "Parental Choice in Education" is to affirm that Parents are the ones who should be able to make the choice of how to best extend their own teaching mission. The proper role of Government is to support the first government in the home. We have turned the equation which made for a wonderful experiment in ordered liberty and limited government in this Nation on its head. Good governance recognizes the first government of the family and follows the principle of subsidiarity by deferring to the smallest governing unit. The current overly federalized approach to education is failing, on many fronts, and our children are too often its casualties. The teaching of the Catholic Church on this issue of the primacy of parents in the educational mission is not only clear; it is refreshingly forthright and helpful. If understood properly it can provide insights for our National Educational policy which can actually promote the real common good and not just mouth the phrase. Governor Christie is right on this position. His courageous stance should become one of the primary issues in the coming fall election campaigns. The primacy of marriage - and the family founded upon it - as the first cell of society, the first church, first government, first school, first hospital, first economy, and the first mediating institution of the broader society is at the heart of Catholic Social Thought. It should also lay the foundation for building a truly just public policy in our Nation. A just and efficient philosophy of government is predicated upon the understanding that the family is the first government and that all other government must first be at its service. In his marvelous apostolic exhortation on the family entitled "The Role of the Christian family in the Modern World" (Familiaris Consortio) the Venerable Pope John Paul II affirmed the social and political role of the family and called for the development of a "family politics". Catholics, other Christians, other people of faith and all people of good will should embrace this challenge to develop just such a "family politics". We desperately need it. It is time to help people understand that what is really behind the issue of Parental Choice in education - the recognition of the family as the first school and first vital cell of human society. Parents are the first teachers of their children and all education begins in the home. We need men and women in Public Office - and running for Public Office - to affirm their support of the fundamental educational mission of parents as the first teachers of their children. We also need them to acknowledge the right of parents to choose for their own children where they go to school. That choice should include the full array of options, public, private, parochial, charter and home schools, no matter what their economic status.
Educationoutside of the home is, after all, an extension of their parental role and primary educational mission. These children are not, in the words of the US Supreme Courts' Wisconsin v Yoder decision "....mere creatures of the State". The family is the first government. We have forgotten that objective truth as a Nation and we are reaping the consequences. We need candidates who propose effective and constitutionally sound efforts to encourage, empower, and support all parents in extending their educational mission, no matter what their economic conditions, through Parental Choice in education. The teaching of the Catholic Church on the primacy of parents in the education of their children is fundamental. Here are some more insights taken from the Apostolic Exhortation "Familiaris Consortio" (The Role of the Christian Family in the Modern World): "The right and duty of parents to give education is essential, since it is connected with the transmission of human life; it is original and primary with regard to the educational role of others, on account of the uniqueness of the loving relationship between parents and children; it is irreplaceable and inalienable, and therefore incapable of being entirely delegated to others or usurped by others..." In another of his instructions Pope John Paul II addressed parents as those responsible for the first School, the domestic church of the family. In his "Letter to Families", he wrote: "Parents are the first and most important educators of their own children, and they also possess a fundamental competence in this area; they are educators because they are parents. They share their educational mission with other individuals or institutions, such as the Church and the State. But the mission of education must always be carried out in accordance with a proper application of the Principle of Subsidiarity." "This implies the legitimacy and indeed the need of giving assistance to the parents, but finds its intrinsic and absolute limit in their prevailing right and actual capabilities. The principle of subsidiarity is thus at the service of parental love, meeting the good of the family unit. "For parents by themselves are not capable of satisfying every requirement of the whole process of raising children; especially in matters concerning their schooling and the entire gamut of socialization. Subsidiarity thus complements paternal and maternal love and confirms its fundamental nature, inasmuch as all other participants in the process of education are only able to carry out their responsibilities in the name of the parents, with their consent and, to a certain degree, with their authorization." Parental Choice in education is an idea whose time has come. It is a matter of real social justice, not what is masquerading as social justice these days. The opposition of many in control of the teachers unions to such an obviously just approach to educational policy and fundamental fairness shows just how far some of these mediating associations, like some unions, have strayed from their primary role. Governor Chris Christie is to be commended for his public statement this week and for his policy position favoring educational choice. Candidates for the 2010 Midterm National elections, and those considering a run for the White House in 2012, should pay close attention to his commitment to this issue. It is not a "liberal" or "conservative" approach; it is just the correct approach. Parental choice in education is right for our children, right for our parents and right for our Nation.
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