For The Dialog
PERRYVILLE, Md. — Seventh- and eighth-grade students at Good Shepherd School had anticipated a trip to Annapolis on March 4 to not only learn about the legislative process but to participate in it by urging their state senator and state delegates to back a Maryland Education Credit.
Unfortunately, a March storm that dumped more than five inches of snow in Annapolis on Monday and left bitter cold temperatures, prompted organizers to cancel the activities, which included an outdoor rally.
Instead, the 13 Good Shepherd students spent the morning going over letters they were writing to their state lawmakers in support of the bills that would establish a tax credit of 60 percent for donations to nonprofit organizations that help public and nonpublic elementary and secondary schools. The nonprofits could use the money to provide supplies, tutoring, tuition assistance, transportation and special needs services, with an emphasis on assisting lower- and middle-income families.
The students remained involved in the political process even if from a distance.
“I wanted to see the process” and learn how it works, said Emily Rapposelli.
The students’ letters will be sent to District 34 Sen. Nancy Jacobs and Delegates Mary-Dulany James, Glen Glass and David Rudolph.
Social studies and religion teacher Sinead Boyd had helped the students prepare for the rally and talking to their legislators by going over what the bills – Senate Bill 633 and House Bill 1262 – would provide, and what it would mean for the state.
The students studied “talking points” from the Maryland Catholic Conference. Among them:
l More than 100,000 students attend nonpublic schools in Maryland, saving the state approximately $1.5 billion a year.
l The state’s 152 Catholic schools have an enrollment of more than 49,000 students. If all those students went to public schools, it would cost the state an additional $706 million a year, not including additional infrastructure.
l The tax credit would provide scholarship money which would stabilize nonpublic school enrollment. Forty-five Catholic schools have closed in Maryland since 2002, with enrollment dropping by more than 15,000 students.
Maryland provides $9.5 million in assistance to 103,000 nonpublic school students, about $92 per student — substantially less than money provided by Pennsylvania ($340.4 million) and New York ($207 million).
Social studies teacher Boyd led a review of assistance now provided nonpublic schools, through a textbook and technology fund and an aging schools program, and a discussion of what students thought were some of the concerns over the education credit legislation and possible ways to overcome those concerns.
“I feel some of them (legislators) will be leaning toward helping public schools more than they would private schools,” said Anthony Wilhelm. He would explain what attending a Catholic school “means to me.”