News for Advocates for Catholic Education in Pennsylvania November 5, 2010
Senate Education School Choice Hearing:
Three cheers to the Senate Education Committee for hosting an informational hearing on the future of school choice and educational opportunity scholarships on October 13, 2010. The Senators, especially Majority Chairman Jeffrey Piccola (R-Dauphin), Minority Chairman Andrew Dinniman (D-Chester, Montgomery) and Senator Anthony Williams (D-Philadelphia, Delaware) heard testimony for over nine hours. School choice advocates from across the United States gave strong arguments on how school choice programs are successful in improving both educational aptitude and choice for children attending public and nonpublic schools. The hearing also featured testimony from a Catholic school student who is currently receiving an EITC scholarship. In addition, PCC legal counsel testified on the constitutionality of school choice legislation and what would work in Pennsylvania. The opponents of school choice who testified included: The Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA), the Education and Policy and Leadership Center (EPLC) and the Pennsylvania Chapter of the NAACP. All of these organizations received harsh criticism from the Senate Education Committee.
The PCC and the Bishops of Pennsylvania know the sacrifices that families endure for Catholic education. With that in mind we are lobbying for school choice legislation that will allow more parents to choose nonpublic school and will assist parents who already send their children to nonpublic schools. In addition, we will still seek all the safeguards that allow schools to keep their Catholic identity and make sure the boundaries between Church and State remain. The PCC will keep you posted on the school choice movement
2010 Federal and State Election Results:
Republicans seized control of the U.S. House of Representatives and significantly bolstered their majorities in the Senate gaining six more seats in Tuesday’s election. This outcome will almost certainly mean an end to emergency education aid to states and will heighten pressure for a more limited federal role in K-12 policy. In addition, Republicans captured a Senate seat in Pennsylvania when Pat Toomey defeated Joe Sestak. Pennsylvania’s congressional delegation is now majority Republican. Five seats that had been held by Democrats flipped.
Representative John Boehner (R-OH), expected to become the next speaker, has been one of the chamber’s staunchest supporters of school choice and has a particularly strong connection to the DC voucher program, which he helped spearhead through the House in 2003. During a floor debate on the measure that year, Boehner, in a heartfelt intervention, asked his colleagues, “How can we continue to turn our heads and look the other way when we know that children’s lives are being ruined because they are consistently put in schools that are not performing?” That same year, Boehner served as a founding force behind an annual dinner to support inner-city Catholic schools in Washington, DC.
The man expected to be the new chairman of the U.S. House Education and Labor Committee, Rep. John Kline (R-MN), promises to advance his broad priorities for education policy in the next Congress. He recently spoke about his dislike for No Child Left Behind, his concern about the Common Core standards movement and his support for more school choice.
Republicans in the State House regained control of that chamber in convincing fashion. It appears that no less than 11 incumbent House Democrats were defeated and no fewer than 4 open seats previously held by Democrats changed hands. Based on current vote count totals, Republicans will have at least 111 seats in the House creating a 19 seat majority heading into the 2011/2012 legislative session. The House has not seen such a wide majority gap since the 1970s.
In the State Senate, Republicans maintained control with their healthy 10-seat margin. Heading into the 2011/2012 legislative session Republicans will have a 30-20 advantage in that chamber.
Pennsylvanians also elected a new Republican Governor Tom Corbett, who made it crystal clear that he thinks parents should have the choice to free their children from failing and under-performing schools. Governor elect Corbett mentioned we have to stop throwing more money at the already expensive and under-performing status quo and look for additional options for our children.
Stepping up ACE-PA:
The PCC will continue stepping up its efforts to grow the ACE-PA network this year. Just a few things to look out for: Every school and diocesan education department will be asked to post an ACE-PA link on their website. The PCC will also continue touring Pennsylvania to meet with the Catholic school principals to discuss the importance of ACE-PA, the Institute for Public Policy, and the PCC. We need everyone to help us grow. Invite your friends, family and school community to get involved.
2010 Catholic Education Priorities:
1. Restore the funding for the Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) program to $75 million.
2. Equity in education funding for all students in Pennsylvania.
3. Build the ACE-PA advocacy network.
Thank you for all your support of the ACE-PA advocacy network. ACE-PA is one of the most important tools we have to influence public policy. With your participation, we can truly change Catholic education in Pennsylvania. I would like to say hello to all our new members and welcome them to the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference’s ACE-PA monthly newsletter. The newsletter will update our volunteers of current Catholic school issues and identify our legislative priorities for the upcoming budget cycle in Pennsylvania.
Technology allows more user interaction for ACE-PA:
Catholic education is among the many issues with which the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference gets involved. Please help spread the word to all your family and friends to assist us in growing the ACE-PA advocacy network. Its simple, just forward this link click here. PCC also advocates on issues of religious liberty, life and the dignity of the human person, marriage and family, social justice, health care, and faith and politics during the election cycle. Check any and all of the categories on the sign-up screen to receive updates on each of them.
All information supplied will only be used for Pennsylvania Catholic Conference purposes. Providing your home address allows the system to determine your legislative district. If you choose to use the PCC website to send a message to your legislators, it will go to the appropriate elected official. Legislators are most influenced by communications that come from their own constituents.
The latest news about Catholic education issues in Harrisburg is posted as it happens on PCC’s website, pacatholic.org/catholic-education and on the ACE-PA Facebook page. Information about ACE-PA can also be found on the front page of pacatholic.org. Watch for the logo in the scrolling list of featured articles. This page will offer resources that will help you boost our advocacy for Catholic education in Harrisburg, but also in your school, parish and community.
The future of Catholic education in Pennsylvania depends on all of us. If you have any suggestions on improving ACE-PA or increasing our membership, please contact me at [email protected]
Sean P. McAleer. MGA
Director of Education
PA Catholic Conference
PO Box 2835
Harrisburg, PA 17105