The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) asked the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference (PCC) to contact our advocacy network regarding the reauthorization of the former “No Child Left Behind Act,” now known as the “Elementary and Secondary Education Act.”
On March 12, 2010, the U.S. Department of Education released a Blueprint for Reform to outline plans for reauthorization of the Act. The Senate is holding hearings on the matter. Please contact our Senators today as they work to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Our biggest concern is that the needs of students and teachers in private schools are addressed.
Specifically, the Senate Health, Education Labor and Pension Committee is encouraging stakeholders in this legislation to send their priorities to [email protected] by Friday, May 7, 2010. We urge the Catholic school community to use this e-mail address to convey the importance of addressing the needs of students and teachers in private schools when they revise this legislation.
Many Catholic schools have found access to services for their students and teachers to be very complicated and frustrating. Thus, we encourage you to address the following issues in the e-mails you send:
- Equitable participation by students in private schools has been a requirement in ESEA since it passed in 1965.
- In recent years, funds generated by students in private schools have been diverted to public school programs in which our students cannot participate, such as Supplemental Education Services and All School Improvement programs.
- The Elementary and Secondary Education Act should be changed so that the proportional share of funds to serve nonpublic school students and teachers in private schools will be based on the total allocation of a program prior to a school district setting aside funds that only public schools can use.
Many of you know first hand that your students and teachers do not receive the full benefit of federal funds. Please don’t hesitate to provide personal examples of this in your e-mail message.
HB 1163 (Sex Education Bill)
Please contact your State Senator and Representative and ask them to vote No on HB 1163. HB 1163 is a sex education bill. It was voted out of the House Education Committee yesterday by one vote. This bill would mandate public school districts to provide comprehensive sex education that includes instruction on contraception, while prohibiting abstinence only programs from being taught. The PCC opposes the bill for the following reasons:
- House Bill 1163 will most likely deliver a subjective message in the prevailing public school culture and environment against abstinence-only education programs. It also discourages parental selection of abstinence-only programs.
- House Bill 1163 does not point out any of the positive features of abstinence-only programs and seeks to marginalize those who prefer such programs.
- House Bill 1163 would create pressure on Catholic children to accept instruction and values that undermine the values taught by their Church and their parents. Parents should be given the opportunity to opt their children in to such programs affirmatively, rather than have their children automatically subjected to such instruction unless they opt out.
- Abstinence is not a “stern” message. Instead, it is positive, self-affirming and self-empowering. It says, “You can control yourself. You are worth waiting for”. There is an opposing ideology that sees abstinence as unworkable and credits sex-ed-plus-contraception with declines in teen pregnancies and births. This idea that students cannot control themselves sexually and that is the wrong message to send to impressionable pre-teens and teens.
- House Bill 1163 endorses Plan B (the “morning after pill”) in its curriculum.
- House Bill 1163 enshrines a protection from discrimination based on sexual orientation. It marginalizes the religious-based conscientious opposition to homosexual conduct.
If you haven’t done so already, it’s not too late to contact our state officials (Governor, Secretary of Education, Senators and House Representatives) and ask them to restore the $75 million for the Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) program. The EITC program is the largest education scholarship program offered to Catholic school students in Pennsylvania. EITC received a $15 million (20%) cut in the 2009-2010 budget cycle; it is scheduled to receive an additional $10 million cut in 2010-2011 budget cycle. We need to stop the cuts and restore the funding to the EITC program.
In addition, ask your legislators to contact their legislative leadership regarding restoring the $75 million to the EITC program. Leadership in all caucuses need to be equally pressured to restore the necessary funding for a successful EITC program. Our success rate will be increased greatly if this message is conveyed to your state legislators.
2010 Catholic Education Priorities
- Restore the $75 million for the Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) program.
- Equity in education funding for all students in Pennsylvania.
- Monitor the American Recovery and Relief Act (ARRA). The second and final year of the federal stimulus dollars will be released to Pennsylvania. We have to make sure that the proportionate share of those funds for nonpublic schools is allotted.
- 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
The Pennsylvania Catholic Conference has upgraded its electronic advocacy tools. Catholic education is among the many issues with which the PCC 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. 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.
We hope that one day every Catholic school website in Pennsylvania will have a link to the ACE-PA page, so new members can join automatically. Instructions and graphics to post this link to your school’s webpage are available online.
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].