“We’re doing our best right now to promote this availability of scholarship dollars for the upcoming school year,” said James B. Sellinger, archdiocesan chancellor for education.
The BOOST Program, Broadening Options and Opportunities for Students and Teachers, is the result of 10 years of lobbying for school choice by the Maryland Catholic Conference, legislative lobbying arm of Maryland’s bishops, and others.
The application and information is available at marylandpublicschools.org/boost. July 11 is the deadline for families to apply for the scholarships available for the 2016-17 school year.
Emily Pixler, advancement director for Our Lady of Victory School in Baltimore, said parents are “very excited” by the opportunity, and the school has, as of May 31, helped parents of 14 current students and four prospective students complete the application, which went live May 27.
Our Lady of Victory distributed information about the BOOST program as soon as it became available, and emailed parents as soon as the application went live.
“We are grateful for the opportunity to endorse this program, and we look forward to sharing it as much information as possible about it to all current and prospective families,” she said in an email.
Sellinger said he hopes all schools are being as proactive as Our Lady of Victory.
“We’re promoting this in all our schools, and we’re doing outreach within our parishes and trying to hold events at schools to try to educate parishioners and the local community about this money,” he said.
The program serves students from families with incomes equal to or below 185 percent of the federal poverty level. For a family of two, one adult and one child, that is $29,637; for a family of four, it’s $44,955.
According to an FAQ posted at marylandpublicschools.org/boost, the State Department of Education will review applications to ensure their completeness and then rank applicants according to the percentage of the federal poverty level that corresponds to their family income.
The list will be forwarded to an advisory board, which will decide how to allocate the scholarship money. The advisory board, with appointees by the governor, State Senate president and speaker of the House of Delegates, had not been named as of press time.
Sellinger said he was unsure how many scholarships the $5 million allocation would provide, or even if the state would award full- or partial-tuition scholarships.
He said that the archdiocese receives about $35 million in annual requests for tuition aid, and is only able to provide $6 million. Not all those who request money, he noted, have incomes at or below 185 percent of poverty.
That would seem to be the case for a school like Our Lady of Victory, where 21 percent of current students qualify for free and reduced-price meals, meeting the same income requirements as for the BOOST scholarships. Sellinger said the program could have a big impact for students who wish to attend Catholic schools in Baltimore City, but also in places such as Allegany County and Prince George’s County.
“It could help us across the board,” he said.