HONORING THE CONTRIBUTIONS OF CATHOLIC SCHOOLS -- (House of Representatives - February 08, 2006)
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Mr. SMITH of New Jersey. Mr. Speaker, I would like to express my strong support for H. Res. 657, a resolution recognizing the valuable contribution of Catholic Schools.
Last week marked the 32nd annual Catholic Schools Week, a week dedicated to honor the achievements and successes of Catholic Schools throughout the U.S. More than 2.4 million children are enrolled in the 7,799 Catholic schools in our country. In addition, 720,000 students are enrolled in the 212 Catholic Colleges and Universities nationwide.
In my home State of New Jersey, 129,232 students are enrolled in Catholic Schools. In fact, New Jersey has the sixth largest enrollment of students in Catholic Schools out of all 50 States.
Of course, children do not form their core values on the sole basis of what schools teach them. Learning a respect for life and respect for the rights of others is not the purview of schools alone; it begins and is nurtured in the home. Accordingly, the Catholic school curriculum recognizes parents and family as primary educators and seeks to foster a shared vision between the school and family. As the father of four children who have attended Catholic schools, I know that Catholic school educators strive to work hand-in-hand reinforcing family values, ethical behavior, social responsibility, and academic achievement.
Placing a premium on both academic standards and moral responsibility has proven to be a successful formula for Catholic Schools. Catholic Secondary Schools have a 99 percent graduation rate and moreover, 97 percent of graduates continue their education.
Learning in a religious setting is not for everyone and America's public school system is critical to providing educational opportunities for all. We must continue to vigorously support our public schools at both the federal and local levels. At the same time, however, we should support those who seek the benefits of Catholic school and choose a religious setting as the best educational environment for their children. The contribution of Catholic schools to our Nation extends beyond the classroom. Catholic elementary and secondary schools save the government and taxpayers of the U.S. up to $20 billion a year.
In effect, parents of Catholic school children pay twice--they pay their fair share of taxes necessary to support the public school system and they pay tuition at the school their children attend. In order to address this issue, I have introduced H.R. 441, the Education, Achievement and Opportunity Act. This bill provides refundable tax credits for the educational expenses incurred by parents for elementary and secondary school. Most significantly, the tax credit is used for private school tuition, however, it can also be used for other educational needs such as computers, tutoring or transportation fees. Thus, parents sending their children to public school can also benefit from this legislation.
A Catholic education challenges students through a combination of high standards, strong motivation, effective discipline and an emphasis on personal responsibility. It is an education that goes beyond preparation for a secular life; it is an education that prepares students for a Christian life.
Mr. Speaker, I ask that all Members lend their support to H. Res. 657, and pass it unanimously.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT