A Lake Charles City Council member thinks, if the voucher system goes through, it could be a lifeline for a local Catholic school that faces closure.
With all the talk of vouchers District A City Council Member Marshall Simien thinks it could be a great opportunity for Sacred Heart School which is to close by next school year. But it seems the chance of the private school staying open is slim to none.
In recent years, Sacred Heart School has suffered severe financial difficulties due to declining enrollment and the announcement came recently that the school will close.
Still, Simien knows the school's rich history and wonders if education reform results in a voucher system that could help Sacred Heart survive."I was looking at what was going on in Baton Rouge with education reform and I said, wow, there's going to be a lot of kids, especially from the community in and around Sacred Heart, that there are a lot of failing schools. This voucher plan comes through these kids are going to have vouchers, and I don't know how much capacity a private school would have to take them but there's a perfect opportunity. I thought it was a great fit."
Monsignor Ronnie Groth is the pastor of Sacred Heart Church and the rector of the school. He says they tried hard to keep the school open, but must close due to mounting debt. "It's definitely a horrible thing that we have to close the school. The bishop really wanted to keep the school open. And when we had the fund drive to meet the deficit last year, which was close to a hundred thousand dollars, the bishop himself gave $35,000 of his own funds. No alumni contributed even a third of that amount," said Groth.
As well, he says, with uncertainty about what will happen in Baton Rouge, they cannot reverse their decision. Plus he fears a school where some pay and others have vouchers could cause hard feelings. "Those who have been faithfully sending their children to Sacred Heart School and then they're not going to be able to benefit from the vouchers because they're already enrolled here," said Monsignor Groth. Reporter, "So you'd have people side by side, one getting it free basically and others having to pay."Said Monsignor Groth, "Right, it would seem to be a taxpayer injustice."
Still, City Council will consider a resolution asking that the school closure be reconsidered. It comes up at the council's Wednesday meeting. Said Simien, "The school was founded 104 years ago specifically to educate children who have these kind of, in these type of neighborhoods. So, I don't think that mission is accomplished yet."
To hear more of our interviews with Monsignor Groth and Marshall Simien, look for our web extras at www.kplctv.com
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What follows is from the Diocese of Lake Charles web site: