By Anne Marie Amacher and Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger
Catholic school leaders, school choice advocates and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) are among local, state and national groups advocating for emergency funds for nonpublic schools. The USCCB makes the case for support in its online Action Center:
“COVID-19 has contributed to the permanent closure of 130 Catholic schools across 23 states. Additionally, internal surveys show ten percent of Catholic schools are now uncertain if they can open their doors this fall. That means as many as 500 or more Catholic schools could be in jeopardy.”
“No schools in the Diocese of Davenport are in jeopardy of closing solely on the basis of the effects of COVID-19,” said Lee Morrison, superintendent of schools for the Diocese of Davenport.
“The COVID-19 epidemic is a global pandemic that has been devastating to budgets for families, businesses, cities, counties and states. Public and nonpublic schools have not been spared from this financial drain,” Morrison said. “Emergency aid to help all of these entities is aimed to help all Americans get back on their feet. Funds from the federal government aimed at supporting children and their education should go to assisting all children in all schools. It takes additional financial resources to assist teachers and students to continue virtual learning as well as all the supplies necessary in mitigation efforts to prepare our schools for all students and staff to return safely in the fall.”
Public schools are requesting $300 billion in the next emergency relief package, which Congress could consider this week now that members have returned to the Capitol. The bishops ask the faithful to contact their Congress members through the Action Center website (https://www.votervoice.net/USCCB/Campaigns/75795
Respond) to ask for emergency aid to Catholic schools and hard-hit families in the COVID-19 relief package. Direct funding for families for education expenses, including school tuition, is included in the request.
Trish Wilger, executive director of Iowa Advocates for Choice in Education and Iowa Alliance for Choice in Education (Iowa ACE), said private schools “provide a quality education option to millions of students and serve children in lower-income families, all while saving states money. Closure would be tragic for families, students and communities and financially devastating for states and school districts who would have to re-absorb these students.”
She said private schools educate 10 percent of the overall K-12 student population in the U.S. “It is only fair that the emergency education funding for private school students in this next COVID relief bill should be 10 percent of the total amount appropriated for education. This emergency, one-time federal appropriation would provide tuition relief for lower-income private school families.”
A federal tax credit would also be helpful, providing long-term funding and consistency for the students, Wilger said. “The legislation for the federal tax credit, Education Freedom Scholarships, already exists in Congress. Up to $5 billion in new education funds would be generated through corporate and individual contributions to scholarship granting organizations, including Iowa’s School Tuition Organization program. Donors would receive a dollar for dollar tax credit up to a certain level of taxable income.”
Iowans wanting to support this legislative effort should contact their members of Congress immediately by visiting the Iowa Advocates for Choice in Education action center at https://iowaadvocates.org/take-action/.
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