WASHINGTON - Today, Bishop Michael C. Barber, SJ of Oakland, chairman of the Committee on Catholic Education for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Bishop Michael J. Fitzgerald, auxiliary bishop of Philadelphia, expressed appreciation for the Administration's commitment to parental choice in education following a visit by Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, to Saint Francis de Sales Catholic School in Philadelphia. The officials highlighted the success of parental choice programs across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the Administration's parental choice proposal, Education Freedom Scholarships. The two bishops issued the following joint statement:
"The right of parents to exercise freedom of choice in education is firmly rooted in the teachings of our Catholic faith. As our brother bishops wrote fifteen years ago in Renewing our Commitment to Catholic Elementary and Secondary Schools in the Third Millennium, 'Advocacy is not just the responsibility of parents and teachers, but of all members of the Catholic community. As the primary educators of their children, parents have the right to choose the school best suited for their children. The entire Catholic community should be encouraged to advocate for parental school choice and personal and corporate tax credits, which will help parents to fulfill their responsibility in educating their children.' We applaud the goals of Education Freedom Scholarships and hope to one day see the opportunity for all families to have the freedom to select a school according to their conscience."
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania offers two scholarship tax credit programs for low income families to gain access to the school that best fits their child's educational needs. The first program was enacted nearly twenty years ago in 2001, and today there are currently hundreds of scholarship organizations in Pennsylvania whose donors receive a state tax credit of up to 90 percent of their donation. In Philadelphia, Business Leadership Organized for Catholic Schools (BLOCS) is the state's largest scholarship program raising over $25 million last year and offering over 16,000 scholarships to low income families. In the 2017-2018 school year, over 50,000 children received scholarships across Pennsylvania.
During his visit, Vice President Pence discussed expanding this successful state model to the federal level with the administration's Education Freedom Scholarships proposal. The proposal would provide for a $5 billion annual federal tax credit for voluntary donations to state-based scholarship programs.
Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Bishop Michael C. Barber, Bishop Michael J. Fitzgerald, Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, Catholic schools, Education Freedom Scholarships, BLOCS.