Inside the Capitol: School Choice Week and COVID relief for nonpublic schools

Supporting School Choice

National School Choice Week is underway (January 24-30). Minnesota legislators have introduced multiple bills aimed at creating more educational opportunities for students. In the House, H.F. 153, authored by Representatives Robbins, Dettmer, and Koznick, would make nonpublic schools a more affordable option by extending the education tax credit to include tuition as an eligible expense. In the Senate, the Education Committee Chairman, Senator Roger Chamberlain, has introduced a bill that would stimulate the creation of more opportunity scholarships by providing tax credits for donors to scholarship granting organizations such as the Aim Higher Foundation.

House and Senate Republicans have committed to making school choice a priority this session, as many kids are falling behind during online schooling, and parents are struggling to help their kids play catch-up. Low-income families, those most harmed by the absence of in-person learning, need more options. Minnesota Catholic Conference (MCC) and its school choice partner organization, Opportunity for All Kids (www.opportunityforallkids.org), will continue to track school choice efforts and ways you can help make these opportunities a reality for Minnesota students.

Non-public schools and COVID

As all schools, public and nonpublic alike, have borne the cost of meeting the challenges of the pandemic, there should be equitable treatment in state and federal aid programs to schools. In the most recent federal coronavirus relief bill, Congress allotted $41.9 million dollars to non-public schools across Minnesota. Our state’s portion is part of a larger $2.75 billion Emergency Assistance to Non-Public Schools Program (EANS). Because states must proactively apply for this nonpublic school aid, the Minnesota Catholic Conference partnered with the Minnesota Independent School Forum (MISF) and encouraged Governor Tim Walz to submit a request to U.S. Department of Education. We will continue to work with the Administration to ensure that nonpublic schools receive the aid that was provided by Congress, and that the funds are distributed equitably across school populations.

Collaborating for the Common Good

Meeting the challenges of the pandemic has generated an unprecedented level of collaboration in the nonpublic school community around Minnesota.  As a result, MCC and MISF are leading a formal coalition of nonpublic school stakeholders called Minnesota Nonpublic Education Partners.

The state of Minnesota provides certain forms of student aid irrespective of the school choice that they make, meaning that nonpublic school students receive things such as textbook, counseling, and transportation aid. In 2021, the Nonpublic Education Partners coalition is pursuing legislation that would add more flexibility regarding transportation aid for nonpublic students; extend guidance counseling and mental health services to non-public students in grades K-7; and provide nonpublic schools with the same funding that public schools may receive through a renewal of the Safe Schools Program.

Action Alert

Pray for your elected officials! They need your prayers for guidance as they form decision that impact life, dignity, and the common good.

Go to www.MNCatholic.org/ActionCenter to let your elected officials know you are praying for them.