Delivering a fiery speech Oct. 6 at the Archdiocese of Baltimore’s Conference for Catholic Educators, superintendent Dr. Ronald J. Valenti told a crowd of hundreds that the fight for financial equality among schools has begun.
During the opening address of the two-day event at the Baltimore Convention Center, he said: “I will continue to stress … that we must be tenacious in convincing our lawmakers that economic justice demands students who attend non-public schools cannot – and should not – be treated as second-class citizens.”
The Maryland Catholic and the archdiocese recently announced a plan to push the Maryland General Assembly to pass legislation for a business tax credit to benefit students and teachers in public and private schools. The tax credit, labeled Building Opportunities for All Students and Teachers (BOAST), mirrors a plan in Pennsylvania. It would give tax credits to businesses that donate to scholarship organizations helping non-public schools.
“Catholic students cannot be ostracized from receiving funds that are constitutionally sound,” Dr. Valenti said. “Non-public school students can no longer be penalized from receiving the necessary recourses because their parents have made an elective choice that their children be educated in schools other than a public one.”
Dr. Valenti said community members must also stand up for teachers.
“No longer should they be denied tax breaks or scholarship opportunities because they elect to teach in a non-public school,” Dr. Valenti said, his voice rising in intensity. “It is discriminatory, it is prejudicial, and it needs to be overturned.”
Maryland Catholic Conference Deputy Director Mary Ellen Russell, who will be elevated to executive director by the end of the year, said school community members face major battles over the next few months.
“Our greatest political opponent down in Annapolis in the Maryland General Assembly is the Maryland State Teachers Association,” Ms. Russell told the crowd. “They are very, very powerful. I believe we can be just as powerful.”