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Catholic School Aid Is Weighed

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Both support and rejection were voiced last night by Ann Arbor Board of Education members over a proposal to aid two local Catholic schools by furnishing 16 teachers for secular subjects on an experimental basis during the 1970-71 school year. The proposal also included a suggestion to allow parochial students in grades 7-12 to elect courses in the public schools, and permit all public-school pupils to elect courses in the parochial schools during the coming year. The two schools are St. Thomas and St. Francis Catholic schools. Trustee Richard M. Wood, an attorney, predicted that such action would "lay a firm foundation" for a lawsuit against the Ann Arbor Public Schools. The Warren Consolidated Schools and several other Michigan districts which now have "shared time" programs with parochial schools are presently being sued for alleged improper use of public funds. Ann Arbor Education Association President David R. Harrell spoke out against the proposal, saying it would be "inappropriate" for the public schools to support religious schools. He urged the board to break off talks with the Catholic schools and to "forget the idea." The tentative proposal was drawn up by a four-man committee of Catholic parents whose children attend St. Thomas and St. Francis schools. It was presented last night after the trustees heard a progress report on talks which began in September between representatives of the Ann Arbor Public Schools and the two Catholic schools. The Joint Public-Parochial School Study Committee, which is investigating possible cooperative programs between the f public and parochial schools in an attempt to help the financially troubled Catholic schools, did not endorse the Catholic parents' proposal. Instead, it asked for further direction from the Ann Arbor school board. The board made no decisions last night, and decided further discussion was needed. The school board's attorney will attend next week's meeting to give a legal opinión on the proposal. Public hearings also are expected to be held sometime this year before any decisions are made. The Catholic proposals are: 1) Have the Ann Arbor Public Schools provide 12 full-time and four part-time teachers for St. Thomas and St. Francis on an experimental basis for the 197071 academie year. 2) Allow individual parochial students in grades 7-12 to elect courses in the public schools, and permit all public school pupils to elect courses in the parochial schools during the coming year. Public-school students would reimburse the parochial schools for the cost of non-public courses they elect. Dr. Cari C. Hug Jr., chairman of the St. Francis School Board, said textbooks and curriculum materials used by lic-school teacïiers would have the approval of both the Arm Arbor Board of Education and the principáis of the two Catholic schools. Hug also assured the board the public school teachers instructing in the parochial schools would be permitted to function according to the policies of the Ann Arbor Board of Education. This would include class sizes. The 12 full-time and four parttime teachers would instruct in mathematics, science, home economics, physical education, foreign languages, music and art - subjects "about as neutral as you can get," according to Hug. Dr. Ronald C. Bishop, an Ann Arbor Board of Education trustee and member of the Joint Committee, estimated that the 16 teachers would cost the Ann Arbor School District a minimum of $150,000. The joint committee was formed at the request of St. Thomas and St. Francis last fall when their representatives told the Ann Arbor school board that rising expenses and limited fin.ancial resources were threatening to close down the schools. St. Francis projects a deficit o f $36,000 (total expenses $12 6,000), and St. Thomas $65,000 (total expenses $401,000) in operating costs for the 196970 school year, according to Hug. Asked how long the Ann Arbor Cathollc schools could opérate without some kind of financial aid, Hug replied it "depends on the ability and the willingness of the Catholic parents to meet tuition inereases." But tuition hikes usually result in lower enrollments the next year, he said. lie said the two schools are committed to opérate at least through the 1970-71 school year. The teacher services from the A n n Arbor Public Schools would help decrease the Catholic schools' déficits by about 10 per cent next year, Hug estimated. The two Catholic schools are educating 1,087 Ann Arbor children this year. If all the children switched to the public schools, it woulct cost the district an estimated $1 million to edúcate them. Trustee Ted Heusel spoke about this when he asked his fellow trustees what they would do if they were suddenly forced to take 1,100 more students. He argued that the school board shouldn't "aliénate" the Catholic voters. "I think we should see if we can work something out," he declared. Trustee Cecil W. Warner agreed some kind of help should be given to the parochial schools, but he said the "most common sense approach" would be to set up a five-year "phasing program" for transferring all parochial children to public schools. Wood spoke vehemently against the proposal. Aside from the legal problem, he questioned the amount of sharing under the próposal. "I don't see a bunch of sharing here. We help you with 10 per cent of your budget and our publicschool students have to pay you to take classes at your schools," he told Hug. Hug replied that Catholic parents have paid two taxes for years - to support both the public schools and the Catholic schools. "This is considerable sharing." Wood also asked how many non-Catholics and blacks attend St. Thomas and St. Francis. Hug replied: "Very few." The Catholic parents' group claims it is legal to provide the proposed curriculum services. Their authority is Dr. Ernest Britton, chairman of the Committee for Legislative Action on the Thomas Study. (The Thomas study was a report of several years ago outlining the directions education should take in Michigan.) Britton's committee feels "Michigan public schools district now possess legal, capacities to extend certain curriculum services to resident children who may be attending non-public schools." In the Warren Consolidated School District's shared time program with parochial schools, the public school is given 75 per cent of the usual state aid for the Catholic pupils. The joint committee is composed of Bishop; Hug; Paul H. Johnson, trustee o f the Ann Arbor school board; Arthur Rogers, member of the St. Thomas School Board, and W. Scott Westerman Jr., superintendent of the Ann Arbor Public Schools. Bishop and Hug are co-chairmen. Consultants to the committee are Sister Mauritia, principal of St. Francis School; Sister Marie Patrice, principal of St. Thomas Elementary School, and Leo Wagner, principal of jihomas High School.


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