By A. B. HILL
Gimme an “A”…gimme a “C”…gimme an “E.” What’s that spell? Advocates for Catholic Education – a newly energized network of cheerleaders and fans for Catholic education in Pennsylvania.
In the past, the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference (PCC) coordinated a statewide group of school-choice advocates. Although school choice is not completely a reality in Pennsylvania yet, the advocates were extremely successful in passing the Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) program. The new and improved Advocates for Catholic Education in Pennsylvania (ACE-PA) will be an extensive network of concerned parents, educators and taxpayers who will advocate for Catholic education issues, and inform and enlighten all Pennsylvania Catholics.
The skyrocketing costs of education have a profound impact on inspanidual families who choose to send their children to Catholic schools. Currently 180,000 students are enrolled in Catholic school, which is the largest student population of any of the Commonwealth’s nonpublic and private schools. But just in the last nine years, Catholic schools lost over 25 percent of their total student population. This puts a strain on those who wish to keep Catholic schools open for their children. Furthermore, for the last three years, Catholic schools did not receive the technology funding from the Commonwealth that all public schools did.
“We have to do something,” said Sean P. McAleer, director of education for the PCC. “If we do not speak up on behalf of Catholic school students, we will continue to be left out of key education programs. Together we will make a difference and put Catholic education as a top priority in the minds of all legislators. By joining together and taking action, we can and will make a difference for our children.”
The PCC is seeking volunteers to get involved. Anyone can help regardless of time constraints; a computer and an e-mail address are all that is needed. Volunteer advocates should contact their diocesan ACE-PA coordinator or Sean McAleer at firstname.lastname@example.org or 717-238-9613.
ACE-PA members will be updated on important news about Catholic education and on occasion will be invited to contact their state legislators about a number of education issues.
The PCC has an important education agenda for the 2009-2010 legislative session. To be successful, as many concerned advocates as possible must speak up about these key issues.
On the agenda:
* Monitor and promote passage of a state budget with appropriate increases for existing transportation, auxiliary services and textbook programs.
* Support and promote proportionate technology funding.
* Support and promote an increase in EITC funding.
* Support and promote religious childcare legislation.
* Monitor legislation that would be harmful to Catholic schools and students.
* Support and promote special education funding legislation.
* Assist in developing and promoting federal tax credit legislation for inspaniduals and businesses to promote parental choice in education.
* Monitor and oppose proposals harmful to Catholic Schools regarding the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA).
The energy, enthusiasm and Catholic school spirit of sincerely concerned parents, educators and taxpayers is the key to advancing Catholic education for our children now and in the future. Please sign up for ACE-PA today.
A.B. Hill is Communications Director of the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference – the public affairs arm of the Catholic bishops of Pennsylvania.