Diocesan News

Conference opposes discriminatory policy proposed by schools

(NCC/SNR) – The Nebraska Catholic Conference strongly objects to a proposal advanced Jan. 12 by several districts of the Nebraska School Activities Association (NSAA) that would unjustly punish success and discriminate against private religious schools.

The proposal would mandate that any high school team branded as ‘too successful’ over a four-year period be elevated to a higher classification. However, a team would only move up if its school has a low number of special education students and a low number of students eligible for Free and Reduced Lunch.

“The proposal violates common sense and religious freedom,” stated Tom Venzor, executive director of the Nebraska Catholic Conference. “It unjustly punishes success. It targets students attending religious schools. It also grants special treatment to teams in Class A.”

The proposal would single out students at nonpublic schools that don’t receive any of the $250 million in special education subsidies allocated to public schools each year. It would also target nonpublic schools for needing the help of tuition, even though they already educate countless low-income students at half the cost of public schools, Venzor explained.

The proposal also fails to provide equal treatment to all schools, public or nonpublic. It categorically exempts the more than 500 teams in Class A, and it requires 8-man football teams that are forced up to 11-man to maintain their status quo and sit out of the playoffs.

“When a policy imposed by a public body like the NSAA has a large exemption for secular reasons, but fails to accommodate for religious reasons, it runs afoul of the First and Fourteenth Amendments,” Venzor said. “Our schools are simply asking to be treated equally.”

Such unequal treatment is particularly egregious as applied to religious schools, which have a faith-based mission requiring that they organize as private entities. Therefore, religious schools forfeit any right to the hundreds of millions of dollars in public subsidies received every year by public schools

 “The NCC stands against this proposed discrimination by the NSAA and for the freedom of all students to strive for excellence and to learn and live out their faith,” concluded Venzor.

The Nebraska Catholic Conference (NCC) is the statewide association operated jointly by the Archdiocese of Omaha, Diocese of Grand Island, and Diocese of Lincoln. Located in Lincoln, the NCC represents the public policy interests of Nebraska’s three Roman Catholic bishops before the Nebraska legislature, the Nebraska delegation in Congress, and state agencies. The public policy issues addressed by the NCC include institutional concerns of the Catholic Church as well as issues related to Catholic moral and social teaching, human dignity, and the common good.

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