Montana Catholic Schools Weekly

November 9, 2015

School Choice

Last week, Matt Brower, the Director of the Montana Catholic Conference (the voice of the Catholic Bishops in areas of politics and public policy) testified at a Department of Revenue meeting regarding school choice. Here is his testimony:

The Montana Catholic Conference believes the definition of “qualified education provider,” as proposed, unjustly and improperly excludes from participation parents and others who, following the enactment of Senate Bill 410, wish to obtain a tax credit by contributing to student scholarship organizations that provide scholarships to students who choose to attend Catholic or other religiously affiliated schools.

Catholic schools have a rich and enduring history in the state. Currently there are 24 Catholic schools in Montana from Billings to Browning, Missoula to Hays and large and small communities in between. Our combined pre-k through 12 student enrollment is 3,840 students. To provide some perspective, those enrollment numbers together represent the seventh largest school district in the state.

Additionally, 47% of our Catholic school students are not Catholic. Over 23% of our students are Native American, most of whom attend one of our five Indian schools. And, notably, over 30% of our students qualify for free or reduced lunch.

Catholic schools have a demonstrated commitment to provide the highest quality education to all who desire a Catholic school education, particularly those on the margins of society. That is the proud history of Catholic schools and it is central to their mission and purpose.

Many Montanans, Catholics and non-Catholics alike, recognize the commitment to excellence reflected in our Catholic schools and the great value they provide to our state. Our students pay tuition, but if a student or family cannot pay all or part of the tuition we provide scholarships to help them attend our schools. For some, particularly those of less financial means, a Catholic school education would not be possible without scholarships.

Not every student does well in public school, nor does every student do well in private school. However, for some who may do better in a Catholic school but lack sufficient funds to make that a reality, that hope and opportunity to thrive remains only a dream.

The very modest tax credit authorized with the enactment of Senate Bill 410 could help open doors to Catholic schooling for students whose families would otherwise be unable to afford such. Parents and others who wish to help students attend religiously affiliated schools by contributing to student scholarship organizations shouldn’t be discriminated against simply because the scholarships will be used for attendance at a Catholic or other religiously affiliated school.

The Montana Catholic Conference urges the Department to reconsider the proposed New Rule I and modify it to include religiously affiliated schools within the definition of “qualified education provider.” Doing so will benefit students and families who choose Catholic schooling, particularly those who might do better in such a school but struggle to afford it.

The Week Ahead

Monday: office (Helena) & Great Falls meetings

Tuesday: Regional Principal meeting (Kalispell)

Wednesday: De La Salle Blackfeet School (Browning)

Thursday: Regional Principal meeting (Great Falls Central Catholic HS)

Friday: office (Helena)

This week: 781 miles

Last week: 75 driving miles/ 1,434 air miles

2015-16: 8,617 driving miles/ 5,184 air miles

Montana Catholic Schools

Serving 3800+ students in 24 Catholic schools across the Treasure State

For Principals

  1. For the regional principal meetings, I will be posting my Slide Show and links to the Principal Portal. Look for them to be up by Tuesday. The dates and locations of the meetings: Nov 10th @ St. Matt's (Kalispell), Nov 12th @ Central Catholic HS (Great Falls), and Nov 18th @ Billings Central Schools Admin offices.
  2. We have scheduled a NWEA (MAP testing) teleconference on Nov 19th at 3 pm. I will send out the link next week.
  3. To all DOH principals--Please insure that all faculty & staff are staying current with VIRTUS requirements.
  4. To all GFB principals--please make sure you have a LIFE trainer prepared to teach the students.

American Catholic News

Leadership Links

Teaching & Learning

Servant Leader of the Week: Fr. Patrick Beretta

Pictured below, Fr. Beretta serves as the pastor of two Butte churches as well as the chaplain of Butte Central Schools, St. Patrick's Hospital, and Montana Tech. He is a prolific writer (one of his selections is listed below) and writes for the Huff Post. He is working to raise awareness of suicide, gun control, and the beauty of the Treasure State, to name a few. Most important, Fr. Beretta is an active chaplain at Butte Central and is involved in the school life.
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