IN NOT TAKING a stand for or against the educational tax credit proposal on the city's Nov. 3 ballot, Roman Catholic Archbishop James A. Hickey of Washington has made an important statement on an issue that has up to now troubled many Catholic parents and other voters who may have assumed--or even been formally told in their churches--that the only good vote was a vote for the proposal. He has said that Catholic parents should make up their own minds how to vote--and therein lies new room for many voters to consider the interests not of the church, but of the entire public school system and the financial stability of their city.

In practical terms, of course, there happen to be more than a few Catholic schoolchildren in the public system who have the most direct stake in this vote--and who surely must have considered the devastating impact that this vaguely worded, deceptive proposal would have on public education. Similar considerations have led many other religious groups and all of the city's top elected leaders to a similar conclusion. As the archbishop stated, "I am concerned for the children in all our schools. The public schools serve the majority of our Catholic students from the District. The parochial and private schools permit parents to have religious faith and moral values integrated with the education program of their children."

That is a fair description, and while opponents of the initiative proposal would prefer a stand against it, neutrality is a fair position on a political issue-- highly charged and highly misunderstood. People of any faith, with or without children in or out of the public school system, who think they are voting their pocketbooks by voting for this tuition plan are lamentably wrong. They, too--one way or another --will wind up sharing the tab.