Catholic Schools in Maryland Blame Government for Closings

Published October 1, 2009

As the new school year began, many Maryland students weren’t able to return to their Catholic schools. Six Catholic schools shut their doors for the 2009-10 school year in response to the poor economy and financial hardships.

Catholic school officials say the disruption could have been avoided had the legislature adopted a program called BOAST (Building Opportunities for All Students and Teachers in Maryland).

Under the proposed BOAST program, modeled on Pennsylvania’s Educational Improvement Tax Credit, businesses would have been given credits on their state income tax equal to 85 percent of their total donations to scholarship-granting organizations.

The legislation, proposed earlier this year by state Del. James Proctor (D-Calvert and Prince George’s County) and Sen. James DeGrange Sr. (D-Anne Arundel County), would have given $3 million worth of credits.

The bill also would have provided $2 million in tax credits to businesses donating to innovative educational organizations supporting programs for public school students. In addition, it would have allowed the organizations to spend up to 25 percent of their funds on grants to public and private school teachers to help them increase their qualifications.

BOAST Seen as Win-Win

The BOAST legislation passed the Maryland Senate but was not brought to a vote in the House of Delegates Ways and Means Committee. Opposition was brought by the Maryland Teachers Association.

“BOAST is a win for everyone,” said Ellen Robertson, associate director of the Maryland Catholic Conference. “Public school students benefit by the availability of enrichment programs and innovative education programs, public school teachers benefit with greater access to professional development opportunities, while Catholic and other nonpublic schools would benefit with increased scholarship assistance for lower- and middle-income families. Additionally, Catholic and nonpublic teachers would have greater access to scholarships and professional development opportunities.”

Proponents of BOAST stand firm behind the proposal and say it will be reintroduced next session. Proctor said BOAST would benefit both public and private schoolchildren and boost afterschool programs, according to a March 11 article in the Catholic Standard.

Sarah McIntosh ([email protected]) teaches constitutional law and American politics at Wichita State University in Kansas.