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School Choice Leaders at the State Capitol

Leaders from organizations that represent many different non-public schools met with Speaker of the House Representative Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny) and many other elected officials this week. Speaker Turzai is the lead sponsor of House Bill 250, a measure that would increase Educational Improvement Tax Credits (EITC) and Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credits by $75 million. The tax credits are granted to companies that support scholarships for Pennsylvania students to attend the school of their choice.

Pictured from left to right: Dr. Sam Botta Lancaster County Christian School;, Sean McAleer, Pennsylvania Catholic Conference and Co-Director of PA-CAPE; Tom Shaheen, PA Family Institute; Dr. Kathy Keafer, Johnstown Christian School; Representative Mike Turzai, Speaker of the House; Dan Stone, Upper School Principal of Dayspring Christian Academy; Dr. D Merle Skinner, Champion Christian School, ACSIPA, and Co-Director PA-CAPE; Arielle Frankston-Morris, Director of Teach PA – Orthodox Union Advocacy Center; and Rev. Theodore E. Clater, Pd.D., Keystone Christian Education Association.

Voice your opinion in support of increasing the EITC and OSTC programs. Click here to urge your elected officials to invest in success and support HB 250.

Tax Credit Scholarship Expansion Bill Passes PA House

With a strong bi-partisan vote of 147-39, House Bill 250 cleared its first hurdle: passage in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. The measure proposes to increase Educational Improvement Tax Credits (EITC) by $50 million (raising it to $175 million) and Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credits (OSTC) by $25 million (raising it to $75 million).

The tax credit scholarships have granted more than 40,000 families each year the opportunity to send their children to a Catholic or another private school. It gives these families a true choice in the right educational path for their children. Every Catholic school in all corners of this great Commonwealth benefits from the EITC or OSTC programs.

The programs also benefit countless more Pennsylvania students in traditional public schools. Educational Improvement Organizations direct a portion of the tax credits to support innovative educational programs that enhance the regular public school curriculum.

House Bill 250 will now be considered by the State Senate. Urge your Senator to invest in success and support the expansion of the Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) and Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit (OSTC) programs by voting YES on HB 250. Click here to send a message to your state Senator today.

What does the Church teach about Family, Community, and Participation?

Explore what the Catholic Church teaches about call to family, community, and participation in this video from Catholic Relief Services on Catholic Social Teaching featuring Lisa Hendey, Msgr. Ray East, and Jonathan Reyes.

U.S. Bishops Chairman on Migration says New Executive Order Still Leaves Many Innocent Lives at Risk


The Most Reverend Joe S. Vásquez, Bishop of Austin and Chair of the USCCB Committee on Migration, says that President Trump’s latest Executive Order still puts vulnerable populations around the world at risk. In a statement issued after the announcement of today’s travel suspension, Bishop Vásquez says that while we seek to maintain our values and safety, we must also exercise compassion in assisting and continuing to welcome the stranger.

Bishop Vázquez’s full statement follows:

“We remain deeply troubled by the human consequences of the revised executive order on refugee admissions and the travel ban. While we note the Administration’s efforts to modify the Executive Order in light of various legal concerns, the revised  Order    still leaves many innocent lives at risk.

The removal of one of the original seven predominantly Muslim countries temporarily barred from entering the United States is welcome, but we are disappointed that the revised order maintains the temporary shutdown of the U.S. refugee admissions program, continues the more than 60 percent reduction in the number of refugees who can be resettled into the United States this year, and still temporarily bars nationals from six predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States.

The U.S. Catholic Bishops have long recognized the importance of ensuring public safety and would welcome reasonable and necessary steps to accomplish that goal.

However, based on the knowledge that refugees are already subjected to the most vigorous vetting process of anyone who enters the United States, there is no merit to pausing the refugee resettlement program while considering further improvement to that vetting process.

The United States has long provided leadership in resettling refugees. We believe in assisting all those who are vulnerable and fleeing persecution, regardless of their religion, including Christians, Muslims, and all others. We believe that by helping to resettle the most vulnerable, we are living out our Christian faith and “welcoming the stranger” as Jesus has challenged us to do.

Today, more than 65 million people around the world are forcibly displaced from their homes. Given this extraordinary level of suffering, the U.S. Catholic Bishops reaffirm their support for, and efforts to protect, all who flee persecution and violence, as just one part of the perennial and global work of the Church in defense of vulnerable persons. Resettling only 50,000 refugees a year, down from 110,000, does not reflect the need, our compassion, and our capacity as a nation. We have the ability to continue to assist the most vulnerable among us without sacrificing our values as Americans or the safety and security of our nation.”

What does the Church teach about human rights & responsibilities?

Explore what the Catholic Church teaches about human rights and responsibilities in this video from Catholic Relief Services on Catholic Social Teaching featuring Cardinal Seán O’Malley, Helen Alvaré, and Bill O’Keefe.

Urge Senators to Disapprove Planned Parenthood Title X Funding Rule

Human Life Action has issued this action alert to contact Congress: We have an opportunity to encourage the Senate to restore the states’ ability to stop some of the federal funding to Planned Parenthood. As you know, a river of federal money currently runs to the nation’s largest abortion provider. On February 16, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.J. Res. 43 to nullify a ruling by former President Obama which prevented states from excluding providers such as Planned Parenthood from receiving federal funds through Title X. Our attention now turns to the Senate. Please contact your senators today and urge them to vote in favor of S.J. Res. 13

It is important to remember that S.J. Res. 13 will allow for federal funds to be redirected to health facilities that provide comprehensive women’s health care. Contact your senators and urge them to restore the states’ ability to stop one stream of our taxpayer dollars flowing to the nation’s largest abortion provider through the Department of Health and Human Services, (HHS) and Title X funds.

Many senators will be in their districts in the coming week. If you would like to advocate in person at the local office on this matter and conscience protection, you can get more information here.

Questions & Answers with Speaker of the House Mike Turzai about Expanding EITC

Pennsylvania’s Speaker of the House Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny) is passionate about giving parents and grandparents real options for their children’s education. He is spearheading an effort to expand the highly successful Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) and Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit (OSTC) programs. The Pennsylvania Catholic Conference asked Representative Turzai why he is such a strong supporter of school choice.

What does House Bill 250 propose to do?

House Bill 250 would increase tax credits available under the Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) program by $50 million (raising it to $175 million) and the Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit (OSTC) program by $25 million (raising it to $75 million). It would be a total of $250 million for educational tax credits.

Last year, EITC represented just 1.5 percent of the $11.4 billion we spent on basic education. If we are going to invest in education, we must recognize that one size does not fit all. Take the Independence Mission Schools in Philadelphia. They educate a very diverse student population; so do the Sister Thea Bowman Catholic Academy in Pittsburgh, Harrisburg Catholic Elementary, and suburban high schools like Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic in the Pittsburgh area. Families want their children to attend a school (like these) that provides security, discipline, love, and values. EITC and OSTC allow families to receive it; and the scholarships help to keep those schools open so they have that choice to make.

EITC and OSTC help public school students too. Educational improvement organizations use it to support after school programs with the Big Brothers Big Sisters and pre-K programs. Suburban, urban, rural, public school and nonpublic students of all faiths benefit from EITC and OSTC. HB 250 helps everyone.

In these austere economic times, what makes increasing the EITC and OSTC programs a good investment for taxpayers?

The vast majority of students in Pennsylvania are educated in public schools. Our public schools need to be good; but in many communities parents and grandparents want an alternative. They pay their taxes to public schools. Their children are entitled to an education. They should have a choice of whichever schools best meets their child’s needs.

Nonpublic schools are already saving the taxpayers a lot of money. The average cost per public school pupil is around $15,000 per year. Given the average per pupil price tag, by taking about 150,000 students out of public schools Catholic schools saved the taxpayers more than $2.25 billion this year alone.

The governor talks about investment in education. All students need to be part of the equation. If we are going to invest in basic education, we need to invest in EITC and OSTC too. We should raise the percentage in these tax credit programs to a little over two percent.

There is great demand for both tax credits and the scholarships they provide. Every year the tax credits “sellout” within a few days of the application deadline; and just one scholarship organization, BLOCS in Philadelphia, received applications from 11,000 families for scholarships for 20,000 students. They were only able to fulfill scholarships for 8,500 families and 12,000 kids. There are waiting lists for both business leaders who want tax credits and students looking for scholarships.

EITC and OSTC scholarships have helped students in many schools both private and public including tens of thousands who attend Catholic schools. What does a Catholic education mean to you personally?

My dad was a public school teacher in a great school, but I went to Catholic school. I got a very good education and really benefited personally from that environment. All three of my own boys went to Catholic elementary school. Two went to public high school and the third is in a Catholic high school. We can afford to make these choices. My son who is a recent public school grad really appreciated the work ethic and core values that he developed in his Catholic elementary school. I think an education like that needs to remain a viable option for any of citizen who wants it.

What can Catholics do to support you in your efforts to expand EITC and OSTC?

Catholics need to let their local lawmakers know how important EITC and OSTC are to their schools, but many students are not Catholic. All parents and grandparents who appreciate the opportunity to go to another school need to let their representatives know how they benefit. They should visit, write, email, and call about the value of having that option. They should stress that increasing EITC is not taking money away from public schools, but enhancing education for everyone. Be positive; rally in support of educational investments; work hand in hand with your local legislators.

Encourage your state representative to support educational opportunities for all students and vote YES on HB 250 by sending a message through the Catholic Advocacy Network today. Visit for details.


Communications Professional Wanted: PCC Director of Outreach

The Pennsylvania Catholic Conference (PCC) is seeking a seasoned communications professional to work in conjunction with the Communications Director with planning and carrying out a program of information and education to advance PCC’s mission to foster a public understanding of the Catholic perspective on public affairs at the state Capitol in Harrisburg and beyond. He/she will have a specific focus on planning and carrying out a program of grassroots advocacy, social media, and public outreach to advance PCC’s legislative agenda.

A successful candidate should have bachelor’s degree or equivalent in communications, journalism, public relations, or liberal arts and several years of professional experience in public relations, journalism, social media, or as a director of communications of an association, corporation, college or diocese.

He/she must be a practicing Catholic in good standing who is intelligent, zealous, dedicated and committed to the interests of the Church, knowledgeable about and interested in Church affairs, and a creative and productive writer.

He/she must have the ability and social skills to work with both individuals and groups, both inside and outside the Church and convey the Church’s teachings, especially as they apply to public affairs, to the media, the public, and the legislature.

This full-time Director of Outreach position is office-based at PCC’s location in downtown Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Send cover letter and resume by March 3, 2017, to: PA Catholic Conference, PO Box 2835, Harrisburg, PA 17105 or send electronically to [email protected].