Catholic advocates promote tax credits for tuition
By Michelle Bauman
Marie Powell, executive director of the Secretariat of Catholic Education for the U.S. bishops’ conference
Marie Powell, executive director of the Secretariat of Catholic Education for the U.S. bishops’ conference

.- Leaders at a Nov. 30 conference in Washington, D.C. argued that tax credits for education benefit not only the students involved but the entire community.

Catholic schools have a “profound effect” on society as a whole through their “faith perspective,” said Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington, D.C.

He underscored that Catholic education serves as “an instrument” that will help students respond to the challenges they will face in life.

The cardinal made his remarks at the event “Tuition Tax Credits: The Catholic Schools’ Perspective,” held at the at the Catholic University of America's Edward J. Pryzbyla center.

He noted his “extraordinarily positive” experience with tax credits in Pennsylvania when he was bishop of Pittsburgh and said that Catholic schools invite students to Christ and the faith in an environment that fosters service, community and worship.

“What they want from us is a level playing field,” he said. “They can do the rest.”

Marie Powell, executive director of the Secretariat of Catholic Education for the U.S. bishops’ conference, explained that the bishops have worked in recent years to support initiatives allowing for greater school choice.

She shared examples states that have been successful in passing school choice legislation and said that supporters of tax credit efforts should work to gain the support of the business community.

Advocates for school choice should try to show that a tax credit system will actually save the state money, Powell said. She noted that supporters must also emphasize that money from a tax credit system would not be limited to private schools but benefit public schools as well.

Powell then advised proponents of tuition tax credits to be prepared for opposition and to be open to compromises that will ultimately promote their long-term goals.

John Carr, executive director of the Department of Justice, Peace, and Human Development for the U.S. bishops, described Catholic education as a “fundamental social justice issue.”

Catholic schools play an important role in transmitting Church teaching and the mission of Catholic education mirrors the overall mission of the Church, he said.

Carr emphasized that the debate on tax credits should not become a competition between public and private schools but instead be focused on finding the best ways to aid the most poor and vulnerable children in society.

The discussion on tax credits is not ultimately one of institutions, but one of students, he said, noting that the young people of today will be the workforce and the leaders of the future.

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