Connecticut parents seek tax breaks, textbook funding for Catholic schools
Archbishop Henry Mansell
Archbishop Henry Mansell

.- A Connecticut parents’ organization is lobbying the state legislature to pass two laws that would assist Catholic schools’ scholarship funds and textbook acqusition, the Hartford Courant reports.

The Connecticut Federation of Catholic School Parents is lobbying for a tax credit for businesses that donate to private school scholarship funds.  The federation also advocates an initiative that would allow municipalities to subsidize textbooks for private schools.

"Catholic schools save the taxpayers over $400 million a year, which is obviously a significant amount of money," said John Cattelan, director of the federation. "And government, at all levels, has a role to play in making sure our children receive a proper education."

To pursue its goals, the federation has formed a coalition with other religious and private schools and educational organizations including the Connecticut Association of Independent Schools, the Connecticut Association of Christian Schools, and the Connecticut and Western New England Jewish Day School Forum.

The Connecticut Catholic Conference will also assist the legislative effort.

One initiative would require school boards to buy and loan non-religious textbooks on an equitable basis for all students.  Parents of school children would apply to their local school board to take part in the program.  State law currently allows the lending of books by public school districts, but there is no state funding for the project.  Cattelan said 19 states provide some kind of financial support for textbook loans. 

The federation is asking the legislature to allocate $2.3 million solely for the purchase of textbooks.

Under another planned initiative, a tax credit of up to $50,000 will be granted to any corporation or business that donates to private school scholarship programs.  The scholarships would benefit families with incomes up to three times the requirements for the school lunch program, $78,000 per year for a family of four.  It would cost the state about $5 million, which Cattelan said would be offset if enough students transferred from public to private schools.

State Representative Andrew Fleischmann, the Democratic House chairman of the education committee, said school expenses did not change so quickly.

"It's not clear that children opting out of the public schools actually save the state much money because for years now we've had school systems that have had a drop in their student census numbers and we have not reduced their educational funding in any way," Fleischmann said, according to the Hartford Courant. "So while the argument sounds compelling on its face, I'm not sure it holds true here in Connecticut."

Representative Fleischmann said the proposals would be controversial because lawmakers would be allocating money for schools over which they have no oversight and because it would direct tax dollars to religious schools that only some parents would choose for their children.

"The only kind of state support you will find for private schools is transportation," Fleischmann said.

David Reynolds, legislative liaison for the Connecticut Catholic Conference, said the proposals would help low-income children attending Catholic schools.  He also said the proposals enjoyed the support of Archbishop of Hartford Henry Mansell.

"The archbishop views this as a very important way to help Catholic schools and to get low-income kids to attend them," he said.

The website for the Connecticut Federation of Catholic School Parents is found at http://www.ctfcsp.org/

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