December 3, 2011; Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | The Post-Gazette is reporting that the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh is promoting legislation for school vouchers in a very distinctive—and coercive—manner. No question that the Diocese knows which side its bread is buttered on. Taxpayer-financed tuition vouchers would certainly help struggling parochial schools. Parents who want tuition-voucher help can certainly call on their Harrisburg legislators to pass the bill, but the Diocese has taken the promotion of voucher advocacy to a new plane. The assistant superintendent for policy and development at the Diocese sent an e-mail to Catholic school principals urging parents to contact legislators—and to complete a form for the Diocese documenting their lobbying and outreach efforts. That’s a pretty clear message to parochial school parents or applicants: tell the Diocese what you’ve done to promote the Diocese’s political position or potentially risk your kid’s access to parochial school. And tying families’ access to tuition aid to the extent of their pro-voucher lobbying? That’s tough stuff! As the Post-Gazette put it, “(t)hat would have been an unfair imposition on parents who need the help, one that would have forced them to trade their right to free expression for tuition dollars.” Although the Diocese sent out a correction to principals “weeks later,” the die was cast. Whether or not one thinks that shifting $5,800 to $13,900 per student from public schools to private schools or religious schools is a good idea, implicitly or explicitly threatening parents for their support isn’t nice. Put the Diocese in detention and have the assistant superintendent write “I will not threaten parents for their kids’ tuition assistance” 100 times on the blackboard.—Rick Cohen
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