Boston forum discusses need for school choice

Former Boston mayor and Vatican Ambassador Raymond Flynn delivers the keynote address at a March 16 forum on school choice sponsored by the Pioneer Institute. Pilot photo/ Jim Lockwood

BOSTON -- It is time to lift state restrictions on aid to students in private schools, including Catholic schools, former Boston mayor and Vatican ambassador Raymond Flynn told a forum on school choice March 16.

Flynn keynoted a breakfast forum at the Omni Parker House Hotel hosted by the Pioneer Institute, a Boston-based public policy research organization, to discuss the merits of families receiving state aid to send their children to private schools.

The meeting also coincided with the release of "Be Not Afraid: A History of Catholic Schooling in Massachusetts," the institute's latest public policy paper released this month, that argues for the repeal of the so-called Know-Nothing or Anti-Aid Amendments.

"Pioneer has always had a longstanding interest in private school choice as a means to make sure inner-city kids have access to school choice," said Executive Director Jim Stergios.

The Know-Nothing amendments were revisions to the Massachusetts constitution in 1854 and 1917 that prohibited state aid to students in religious schools. They take their name from the nativist Know Nothing political movement of the mid-19th century formed to oppose the rising influence of Irish and German Catholic immigrants.

In his keynote address, Flynn said that many families currently cannot afford private education and a lack of state aid for this purpose constitutes discrimination against poorer families.

"What's happening is atrocious," Flynn said.

He also called the situation "an embarrassment to our country and our city."

Flynn encouraged school choice advocates to frame the issue as a means of creating opportunity for people.

An ensuing presentation by Patrick Wolf, an education researcher at the University of Arkansas, outlined the benefits of private education such as higher test scores and college graduation rates.

The presentation outlined options for achieving school choice, ultimately concluding that a repeal of the Know-Nothing Amendments is the best option.

Wolf discussed tax credits for families that send their children to private schools.

However, during the ensuing panel discussion the superintendent of the Medford Public Schools Roy Belson noted that Wolf's report does not account for special education students.

"They (private schools) don't serve the same population," Belson said.

Speaking with The Pilot following the discussion, Belson said a better approach than enacting school choice legislation would be to share services such as professional development efforts and Title I funding, which provides federal money for supplemental educational programs for disadvantaged students.

"There's not enough resources to go around," he said.

Also participating in the panel discussion was Archdiocese of Boston Associate Superintendent for Academic Excellence Bill McKersie.

McKersie discussed the benefits of private schools, the need for diversity in schools, the recent closures of archdiocesan schools and the creation of regional academies and importance of providing educational options for everyone.

"We need to find public policy options that support everybody in the educational marketplace," McKersie said.

Charles Glenn, an education professor at Boston University, pointed out that federal funds support special education even for private school students, but questioned why that is illegal under state law.

Yet, Norma Shapiro, of the American Civil Liberties Union, cautioned that school choice legislation would be unconstitutional.

"The Anti-Aid amendment is the freedom of religion amendment in the Massachusetts constitution," she said.

Shapiro also said that only public schools should receive public funds, which come from the taxpayers.

"These people depend on these funds," she said.

Stergios said that no move is currently afoot on Beacon Hill to repeal the amendments, but he said the repeal effort would take around three years.

"It takes that kind of focused planning, media planning and outreach planning to make sure you can convince people," he said.

Archdiocese of Boston schools superintendent Mary Grassa O'Neill, who was in the audience at the forum, said she was pleased with the insight it offered.

"It gives us the strength to look at what is a major social justice issue of our day," she said.

Today is 'hour of the laity,' Archbishop Gomez tells Encuentro delegates

GRAPEVINE, Texas (CNS) -- Hispanic Catholic leaders are living an important moment in the history of the Catholic church in the U.S. and are called to ...

Stay close to the suffering, forgive one another, pope tells Latvians

AGLONA, Latvia (CNS) -- What would Mary do? was the question Pope Francis, in effect, asked Latvian Catholics gathered at their nation's popular Marian ...

Joy, hope contagious for Encuentro participants as they discern priorities

GRAPEVINE, Texas (CNS) -- Joy, hope, energy and a spirit of continued collaboration are contagious among the participants of the Fifth National Encuentro, ...

Update: Pope in Lithuania: Don't let anti-Semitism, hatred resurge

VILNIUS, Lithuania (CNS) -- Outside the former KGB headquarters in Vilnius, Pope Francis ended a day of paying homage to victims of totalitarianism and ...

God is patient, even with failures, pope tells young Lithuanians

VILNIUS, Lithuania (CNS) -- Meeting young Lithuanians in Vilnius, Pope Francis said he wanted a relaxed conversation, like they were sitting in a pub ...

Update: Vatican signs provisional agreement with China on naming bishops

VILNIUS, Lithuania (CNS) -- For the first time in decades, all of the Catholic bishops in China are in full communion with the pope, the Vatican announced. Pope ...

Find strength in tolerance, solidarity, pope tells Lithuanians

VILNIUS, Lithuania (CNS) -- In Lithuania, a nation that experienced invasions, atrocities and persecution, Pope Francis began his visit with a plea to ...

Ospino: Encuentro reflects 'energy, maturity' of a church 'here to stay'

GRAPEVINE, Texas (CNS) -- The thousands of Hispanic Catholic ministry leaders gathered in Texas for the Fifth National Encuentro shared views on the maturity ...

N.J. cardinal won't attend synod, asks to remain home at 'time of crisis'

NEWARK, N.J. (CNS) -- Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin of Newark told the people of his archdiocese Sept. 21 that Pope Francis has granted his request that he ...

Detroit Archdiocese welcomes investigation into Michigan dioceses

DETROIT (CNS) -- Michigan's attorney general has opened an investigation into the handling of sexual abuse by clergy in all of Michigan's seven Catholic ...

Catholics believe in God but 'don't believe in us,' Miami archbishop says

MIAMI (CNS) -- The crisis the Catholic Church is facing is not "a crisis of faith" or "mainly about a crisis of sexual abuse by clergy," but is "a crisis ...

Update: Disney animator says grounding in Catholic schools led to success

SIOUX CITY, Iowa (CNS) -- Ron Clements is a renowned animator, screenwriter and producer-director of award-winning Disney films, including the blockbuster ...

#WhyImCatholic movement aims to share hope at difficult time for church

CHICAGO (CNS) -- Catholic Extension has launched a new social media campaign called #WhyImCatholic to offer "hope and unity" for Catholics by inviting ...

Continue to be an evangelizing church, nuncio tells Encuentro delegates

GRAPEVINE, Texas (CNS) -- Quoting from Pope Francis' apostolic exhortation "The Joy of the Gospel," Archbishop Christophe Pierre encouraged Hispanic Catholic ...

Encuentro opens with procession, papal message, prayers for abuse victims

GRAPEVINE, Texas (CNS) -- A video message from Pope Francis and a procession of Encuentro crosses representing all of the participating episcopal regions ...

Retired Green Bay auxiliary bishop failed to report abuse, withdraws from ministry

Green Bay, Wis., Sep 20, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- Bishop Robert Morneau, Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus of Green Bay, has withdrawn from public ministry saying ...

Dolan 'impatient' waiting for apostolic visitation in response to McCarrick

New York City, N.Y., Sep 20, 2018 CNA.- The Archbishop of New York said Thursday that while he has confidence in the way Pope Francis is handling the ...

Two more Chilean bishops step down in wake of abuse crisis

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis accepted the resignations of two more Chilean bishops, bringing to seven the number of bishops who have stepped down ...

Celebration of the Priesthood dinner raises over $1.8 million

BOSTON -- A record 1,700 people attended the 10th annual Celebration of the Priesthood dinner to raise funds for the Clergy Health and Retirement Trust ...

Lawrence parish helps community cope with gas explosion aftermath

LAWRENCE -- Volunteers at St. Patrick Church's Cor Unum Meal Center were serving dinner when multiple natural gas explosions and fires broke out in homes ...

Ceremony, Mass kick off St. Augustine Chapel bicentennial

SOUTH BOSTON -- St. Augustine Chapel and Cemetery began its year-long bicentennial celebration on the weekend of Sept. 14-16 with tours, special Masses, ...

Mass. Knights install new officers

The Massachusetts State Council Knights of Columbus recently held its Installation of State Officers at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Canton with ...

Deal will keep Sancta Maria Nursing Facility open

CAMBRIDGE -- Sancta Maria Nursing Facility announced Sept. 17 that it has negotiated a comprehensive operational contract with Advocate Healthcare Management ...

From Cardinal Seán's blog

As I mentioned in my preface to last week's blog, this week and last, I have been in Rome for meetings related to the work of the Pontifical Commission ...

N.Y. Archdiocese names judge as independent reviewer on abuse protocols

NEW YORK (CNS) -- New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan has named a former federal judge to study archdiocesan policies and procedures with respect to sexual ...

U.S. reports poverty declines, but agencies finding needs remain great

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The good news from the U.S. Census Bureau Sept. 12 was that the poverty rate dropped for the third straight year in 2017 and median ...

Class-action lawsuit filed against eight Pennsylvania dioceses

PITTSBURGH (CNS) -- A class-action lawsuit was filed Sept. 17 against eight Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania demanding the dioceses provide proof that ...

Apostolic visitor outlines plans for expansion at Medjugorje shrine

WARSAW, Poland (CNS) -- The Polish archbishop tasked with overseeing Bosnia-Herzegovina's Medjugorje shrine has outlined plans for expansion, including ...

Pope names administrator as Indian bishop investigated for alleged rape

MUMBAI, India (CNS) -- Pope Francis has accepted the request of an Indian bishop accused of raping a nun to be relieved of his duties during the investigation. In ...

In letters to German cardinal, retired pope defends way he stepped down

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Retired Pope Benedict XVI expressed his displeasure with the way a German cardinal publicly criticized his stepping down as pontiff, ...

Thousands of Hispanics expected in Texas for Encuentro summit

Fort Worth, Texas, Sep 20, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- As many as 3,000 Catholics of Hispanic background are expected in Texas this week for the National V Encuentro, ...

Church plans third-party abuse reporting system, code of conduct

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pledging to "heal and protect with every bit of the strength God provides us," the U.S. bishops' Administrative Committee Sept. 19 ...

Be grateful to parents, never insult them, pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Honoring mothers and fathers means being grateful for the gift of life and Christians should never insult anyone's parents, Pope ...

Canadian cardinal: Women should help screen, train priest applicants

Poznan, Poland, Sep 18, 2018 CNA.- Increasing the role of women in screening and training priests is among the steps that should be taken to prevent future ...

Vatican delegation will travel to China this month to finalize agreement, Chinese newspaper reports

Beijing, China, Sep 18, 2018 CNA.- A newspaper tied to the Chinese Communist Party reported Tuesday that a delegation of Vatican officials will head to ...

Media reporting Vatican-China agreement could be signed in late September

HONG KONG (CNS) -- The long-awaited Sino-Vatican agreement on the nomination of bishops is expected to be signed in September, reported several media ...

Update: Irish singer Bono calls pope 'extraordinary man for extraordinary times'

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Bono, the lead singer of the Irish band U2, said he told Pope Francis that in Ireland "it looks as though the abusers are being ...