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No level playing field for NCCS

As all property owners know, school tax bills arrived in the mail this month. I am blessed to currently own property in two different public school districts. As I wrote the checks to pay my school tax assessments, it once again struck me that I am paying quite sizable school taxes to two school districts that will not allow the students who attend my small Catholic School to participate in the after school athletics and other extra-curricular activities offered there.

There would be quite a stir if a local Little League Baseball organization, youth football, youth soccer, neighborhood playground or other community youth organization told a family that their children are ineligible to participate in activities because they attend a Catholic or religious school. Why then is is it acceptable for a public school district to tell tax paying parents that their children can not participate in after school activities because they attend a Catholic school?

Private school students are certainly bonafide students in accredited schools. The separation of church and state isn’t a valid argument for this exclusion.

There are Bible Clubs and prayer services before, during and after school at area public schools. Athletics and other school activities that are provided for children by tax dollars should have no religious content in them. So why exclude Catholic School children? There is not one good reason why tax paying parents who choose to send their children to a private school for a Christian education should have their children denied access to public school extra-curricular activities.

Know that this religious discrimination does not occur everywhere. Other states in our nation are able to partner their public schools with their private and parochial schools quite well, while still managing to balance the separation of church and state issue. Even other areas of New York State are able to work this partnership and maintain this balance.

Public schools in our area of Western New York and New York state Section 6 Athletics are especially culpable of this bias. This exclusion is especially hurtful to Catholic School and private school students who wish to participate in sports and extra-curricular activities that are too expensive or simply impossible to offer at underfunded private schools. Why should these parents of private school students have to pursue athletics and extra curricular activities at private clubs and organizations when their tax dollars are already providing for them at the local public school?

Ask your local legislator, school superintendent, public school principal or athletic director why Catholic School children are shut out of public school extracurriculars. Most will simply turn a deaf ear and ignore you. A few will be quick to offer the lame and specious excuses already mentioned. Public school officials who lack the courage or common sense to question unfair, discriminatory and often ridiculous public school policies will simply say that’s just the way that it is.

Why is this religious discrimination allowed to exist and persist? What if tax payers decided to withhold their assessments until this injustice is addressed? Wouldn’t that be revolutionary!

Andrew Ludwig is a retired pubic school administrator. He is currently the principal at Northern Chautauqua Catholic School in Dunkirk, NY. NCCS is the last Catholic School in Chautauqua County.

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