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School choice offers benefits to our youth

As a public school teacher and principal for 33 years, I was admittedly uneducated and somewhat brainwashed by a teachers’ union and an administrators’ union when it came to school choice and school vouchers. As a well-trained and extremely hard working educator, I couldn’t see how any Catholic or private school could possibly provide for children what we provided at the highly regarded public school where I was employed. I thought that everyone in my profession worked as hard as I did and committed themselves to the students in their care like I did.

Why should much needed public school funds be diverted from public school places of need to private schools or Catholic schools?

After two years of serving as the principal of a Catholic school and six months into a pandemic, my eyes have been opened. I now know why public school funds should be diverted to private and Catholic schools. A public school is only as good as its board, administrators, teachers and staff. When that group fails to plan and struggles to meet the educational needs of district families and taxpayers, why should families have to take hard earned after-tax money out of their pockets, in order to get a decent education for their children at a private school?

Failing public schools and botched pandemic reopening plans underscore the need for vouchers and school choice. Even with their astronomical budgets and additional state and federal assistance, so many public schools have been unable to provide safe, daily in person learning for all students during this pandemic. When a public school district fails in its obligation to provide safe, daily, in person and quality education for all students, families should be able to take the tax dollars allocated for their son or daughter’s education and apply that assessment towards the tuition for a private or Catholic school that can meet their needs.

There are many fine public schools in New York state. As a public school teacher and principal, I was never afraid of competition or concerned with school choice because I felt that my public school provided the best choice in the area. Unfortunately that can no longer be said. It appears that fear, indifference, complacency, incompetence and even greed has become the norm in many public schools. These emotions and feelings should never be allowed to replace love, dedication and professionalism when caring for and teaching children.

The need for school choice has never been greater. The timing has never been more critical. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has asked that we reimagine education in New York state. Let’s reimagine education in New York state as face to face 21st Century Learning that includes much needed Christian values. Let’s reimagine education as an institution that allows families to send their children to the school of their choice and allows taxpayers to send their hard earned dollars to highly effective Catholic and private schools.

Andrew Ludwig is a retired public school administrator who is now the principal of Northern Chautauqua Catholic School, the last Catholic School in Chautauqua County.

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