Bush Encourages Faith-Based Schools

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A decline in religious educational systems has prompted President Bush to encourage Americans to invest in faith-based schools.

Nearly 1,200 religious schools across the country have closed in the last eight years. Many of those institutions were located in poor, inner city neighborhoods.

As a result, the estimated 400,000 students they left behind have been forced to attend failing public schools.

On Thursday, Bush hosted a conference of educators, clergy and business leaders at the White House to draw attention to the decline of Catholic and other religious schools.

Bush said the federal government should lend a hand to keep faith-based schools open for those children.

"In neighborhoods were some people say children can't learn, faith-based schools are proving the nay-sayers wrong," Bush said. "These schools provide a solid academic foundation for children. They also help children understand the importance of discipline and character."

The President said it is in the country's interest to support faith-based schools.

"In Detroit, one student in four makes it out of the public school system with a diploma," he told the audience. "If schools like these fail our inner city children, it is unfair, it's unacceptable and it is unsustainable for our country."

"The impact of school closings extends far beyond the children who have to leave its classrooms," Bush said. "The closings place an added burden on inner city public schools that are struggling."

"And these school closings impoverish our country, by really denying future children a critical source of learning not only about how to read and write, but about social justice," he continued.

The Bush administration wants Congress to approve $300 million in scholarships for students to attend faith-based schools.

However, critics say these "opportunity scholarships" as the President calls them, would be an unconstitutional use of taxpayer funds.

Sources: The Associated Press, ABC News

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