High court ruling excites religious school officials

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 5, 2000

L’Observateur / July 5, 2000

LAPLACE – Local reaction to this week’s U.S. Supreme Court decision thatpublic funds can be used to assist religious schools with computers and other technology met with acclaim from local parochial schools.

In Norco, Sacred Heart School principal Colleen Remont remarked she is “very excited about that.”The 6-3 ruling by the Supreme Court bore out the feeling that tax money should be used in support of all schools, public or non-public, on behalf of students and provide them all equal educational opportunities.

“It’s good for the federal and state government to have an interest in all students, no matter if they’re public or private,” Remont added. “It’sbasically insuring a more competent job force for our next generation. It’ssecuring the future of our country.”Remont pointed out that all taxpaying adults, even those without children, pay to support public education. In addition, those parents who send theirstudents to private or parochial schools likewise support public schools through their taxes.

Therefore, she continued, it should be fair in the other direction as well, with the emphasis on meeting the educational needs of children.

Kimberly Babineaux, administrator at Boutte Christian Academy, added that the federal government, though committing the least tax dollars to education, nevertheless have the greatest influence on the operation of schools. At the same time local school districts provide the most money buthave the least influence.

“For us, it’s lagniappe,” Babineaux said of the possibility of an influx of federal funds to that school because of the ruling. It also backs Gov.Foster’s aim to improve education in Louisiana across the board.

Meanwhile, that school will continue to depend mostly upon tuition, some state funding already available and donations.

This spring, for instance, Motiva in Norco donated 24 new computers which will be installed this summer in time for the fall semester.

In St. John Parish, educators at St. Joan of Arc school are very happy withthe ruling.

“We’re ecstatic,” said assistant principal Terri Jacob. “This is a real boost forus.”For the past couple of years St. Joan of Arc has been a recipient of federalfunds for computers.

“We have a fully functioning computer lab that is funded by the federal government,” said Jacob. “With this ruling we can continue to get aid and getmore computers for all the classrooms.”The 15-year-old case was generated by Jefferson Parish parents Marie Schneider and Neva Helms, who argued that by using federal funds to support religion-based schools it would cripple funding for public schools and generate a system of elitist private schools, leaving public schools only for the economically disadvantaged.

Back in 1965 the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act required public school districts to share special services and instructional equipment with non-public schools in a “secular, neutral and non-ideological” manner.

In Jefferson Parish, 46 schools participate in that federal program. Afterthe Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals disallowed computer technology from the Act, area parochial-school parents appealed, leading to the high court ruling.

(Reporters Leonard Gray and Erik Sanzenbach contributed to this article.)

Return To News Stories