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Bush, ACE graduate discuss education

Luisa Cabrera | Thursday, April 19, 2007

Notre Dame graduate Ben Ketchum never imagined that a week after receiving a call from the office of the Secretary of Education, Margaret Spelling, he would meet President George W. Bush.

The secretary’s office called to ask Ketchum about Notre Dame’s Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) program and invited him to the White House to partake in a conversation with Bush, advocating broader choices for parents selecting a school for their children in the School Choice program.

The ACE program, founded in 1993 by Fr. Timothy Scully and Fr. Sean McGraw, has been nationally recognized for its outstanding achievement in producing committed teachers to serve in under-resourced Catholic schools, according to the program’s Web site.

In the meeting, President Bush said, “One thing is for certain. If you’re interested in educational excellence, you can look at the Catholic schools in the United States of America, because they provide it – and for that, this country is very grateful,” the White House Web site said.

Ketchum told Bush about the benefits Student Choice has brought to Catholic schools throughout Washington D.C.

“Many of our students and parents use this tool, and it’s a gift to have Catholic school as a choice,” Ketchum said.

Ketchum graduated from the ACE program in 1999 and is a part of the ACE Leadership Program, which focuses on training young graduates interested in administrative education. He is currently working as an assistant principal for a Catholic school in Washington, D.C. and has personally seen the benefits of the School Choice program in own school.

Parochial education leaders, such as Ketchum, and parents who benefit from School Choice programs were in attendance.

According to the Alliance for Student Choice, the program empowers “parents to select the educational environment they feel is best for their child.”

Parents are given the opportunity to exercise choice through the use of various school selection tools, such as tax credit and school vouchers, in schools outside their own communities, according to the organization’s Web site.

“A parental choice is a very important part of educational excellence. And one way to make sure that that’s the case is not only to fully fund the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship, but to provide these kinds of scholarships for school systems outside of Washington,” Bush said.

The program is especially beneficial for low-income families that don’t have the option of moving to neighborhoods with better schools.

Fr. Ronald Nuzzi, director of the ACE Leadership Program, stressed the program’s importance in light of the needs of underprivileged families.

“School Choice programs are a legislative attempt to level that playing field and give the poor some options for the education of their children,” Nuzzi said. “All of us in ACE believe the poor have special claims on us, because of the example of Jesus in the Gospel and the Old Testament prophets. We will always be great friends of and advocates for school choice.”