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October 5, 2011

"Now is the time to ensure that ideal educational opportunities are accessible and available to all"

"School choice is the right choice for Pennsylvania's families." The Catholic Bishops of Pennsylvania yesterday issued a statement ( in support of legislative efforts to create a school voucher program and increase the already successful Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) program.

The Bishops believe school choice is "a defining social justice issue of our society. Legislation currently being considered in Harrisburg could herald a new, more just era for education in Pennsylvania - an era in which we focus on the ideal educational environment for each student, not on a mandatory system in which students are assigned to a school based solely on geographic location. The current treatment of these children, particularly children from low-income families, is unjust and inequitable." Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., Archbishop of Philadelphia and Chairman of the PCC, said, "The debate over school vouchers and an increase in EITC funding is a pivotal moment for education in Pennsylvania. School choice is about more than education; it's also about opportunity, justice and parental rights Its goal is always the same-to empower parents to educate their children as they judge best, and to provide poor families with alternatives and real opportunities to succeed."

The Bishops continue, "Catholic and private schools already participate in the marketplace of education. We must meet the high expectations of parents, for they have the freedom to withdraw their students and choose a different school if they feel it will better meet their needs. Current school choice legislation places all educational institutions into this marketplace and recognizes the moral obligation of educating each and every child to their potential. The public schools of the state of Pennsylvania and the fine teachers and administrators who labor there are our collaborators in fulfilling this obligation, not our adversaries. School choice is not a public versus non-public school issue; it is a family and child issue. Each family should have a full range of educational options within its grasp; this is a civil right for every parent."

With school choice, parents have wider options for educating their children. Most will remain in public schools, but a significant number will choose to enroll or remain enrolled in non-public schools. With fewer students in public school, some of the financial pressure will be lessened on state and local budgets.

As the largest provider of non-public education in the Commonwealth, Pennsylvania's 500 plus Catholic schools have educated "millions of intelligent, active and community-minded Pennsylvanians. These schools educate both Catholics and non-Catholics in an academically excellent and nurturing environment. This essential service not only helps to create new generations of productive and engaged citizens, but also by saves over $4 billion tax dollars annually," according to the Bishops.

The Bishops are emphatic in their support of school choice, "We have reached a critical moment in the debate over school choice. Now is the time for the Pennsylvania legislature to ensure that ideal educational opportunities are accessible and available to all."

The Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference (PCC), Robert J. O'Hara, Jr., says, "Catholic schools have rolled out the welcome mat for students with vouchers and EITC scholarships. The schools stand poised and ready with enough empty seats to enroll thousands more students immediately."

The Bishops are calling upon the Catholic community to visit, call, write or send an email message through the Pennsylvania Catholic Advocacy Network to their elected officials urging them to pass the bill.

The Bishops were meeting in Harrisburg for the annual Board of Governors meeting of the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference. They also affirmed their opposition to a federal contraceptives mandate and their positions on other legislative issues. More information about the PCC is available at

Amy B. Hill
Director of Communicatons, PA Catholic Conference

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