By Erik Zygmont
Following a favorable report by the chamber’s Budget and Taxation Committee, the State Senate has passed the Maryland Education Credit 25-19, leaving the question of expanding school choice to the House of Delegates.
The legislation would allow businesses that donate to nonprofit organizations set up to benefit students of both nonpublic and public schools to receive tax credits equal to 60 percent of those donations, not to exceed $60,000.
Nonpublic-school students – starting with those who qualify for free and reduced-price meals – would receive tuition assistance. Per the bill, public-school students would be supported through “innovative educational programs” that “enhance the curriculum or academic program of an eligible school.”
The Maryland Catholic Conference, legislative lobbying arm of the state’s bishops, is strongly in favor of the credit. Both chambers of the legislature have heard from those who serve and are served by Catholic schools.
Sister Delia Dowling of the School Sisters of Notre Dame, president of Sisters Academy in Baltimore, which educates girls in grades 5-8, testified to the advantages a Catholic education can give a child growing up in difficult circumstances.
“For the past 12 years, Sisters Academy of Baltimore has been a point of light and hope for families from some of the poorest parts of the city,” she said, adding that 90 percent of her students qualify for free or reduced-price meals.
“Our students work hard; they’re in school nine-and-a-half hours a day,” Sister Delia told the House Ways and Means Committee March 7.
She added that 100 percent of the students who have completed the eighth grade at Sisters Academy are either in high school or have graduated from high school.
Quintin Moody, an alumnus of the former Cardinal Gibbons School in Baltimore, noted his parents’ sacrifice to send him to Catholic schools, particularly after an incident in which his mother was assaulted and nearly died.
An elementary-schooler at the time, Moody recalled that the incident left him struggling to focus in the classroom and his father struggling to pay for his education.
His parents, however, “recognized more from this traumatic experience that I needed the discipline Catholic schools provide,” Moody said.
At those schools, he added, he “learned to be resourceful, and to give back.”
“I would like you to think about the support afforded to you, to get you where you are today,” he said to the committee. “This is needed now, to continue to elevate today’s youth.”
The proposed legislation remains before the Ways and Means Committee.