Private School Teams on Public Fields
I don’t know if this will go anywhere, but the lawsuit by the ACLU against the Pawtucket Parks and Rec Department for supposedly giving parochial schools priority over public schools for athletic field use caught my attention. As summarized at 7to7:
The ACLU, in a news release Wednesday, alleged that parks and recreation gave the preferential treatment in issuing permits for athletic field use to parochial schools over public schools.
The suit has been filed on behalf of seven Pawtucket parents and their children and it asks for the court to declare unconstitutional “both the preferential treatment to religious schools and the city’s lack of any objective standards” for issuing the permits for fields use.
As an example, the suit claims that O’Brien field has “been reserved exclusively” for Saint Raphael Academy after it was refurbished using tax dollars.
And junior high school teams at the city’s public schools have been denied use of two other fields, which are used by athletic teams from Saint Raphael and/or Bishop Keough Regional High Schools, the suit alleges.
I’m much more persuaded by the claim that the city has no objective standards for determining field use than by any supposed religious preferential treatment. (I suspect that any preference has more to do with who in the Pawtucket Parks and Rec may or may not be an alumnus of a particular school or not). Perhaps the most persuasive argument (PDF) is that these athletic fields were built and are maintained by public tax dollars, but the permitting has undeniably favored the athletic teams at St. Raphael’s over the public schools.
[F]or most of the period before and since the O’Brien Field has been refurbished through the use of public monies, Saint Raphael Academy has enjoyed the exclusive use of said field, particularly on week-day afternoons in the fall season, despite repeated requests by various public school officials for use of O’Brien Field for public school sponsored interscholastic sports, submitted to the City of Pawtucket’s Office of Parks and Recreation, by and through Defendant William D. Mulholland.
This is part of a larger debate: to what degree should public dollars support private education? Many (all?) municipalities are required to bus students to private schools within their zone, for instance. If private school is a choice–often made out of necessity–should the public (ie; the taxpayer) be expected to subsidize any portion of that education? (Keeping in mind that parents who send their kids to private school subsidize public schools via their taxes)? Would this all go away if a voucher-type system was enacted?