Hundreds of students, as well as parents and teachers, addressed Roman Catholic Masses throughout the Philadelphia Archdiocese over the weekend to urge parishioners to lobby their legislators to support tax-funded school vouchers.
“Please help to pass school-voucher legislation?… not just for my family, but for all families who want their kids to experience lifelong success,” stated Patrick McCann, 16, a Roman Catholic High School junior, addressing churchgoers at the 10 a.m. Mass at St. Monica Church in South Philadelphia.
But the bill is not a priority in the House, and with legislators in the midst of annual negotiations on the budget for the fiscal year that starts July?1, an issue as contentious as vouchers is seen as a longshot for now.
In a recent column, Archbishop Charles J. Chaput called the next few weeks “crucial” and exhorted Catholics to press their legislators (“Call them. Write them. E-mail them. Visit them.”) to act on vouchers and increased EITC funding.
This weekend, Chaput’s foot soldiers rallied to the cause.
McCann, who attended St. Monica’s school, urged his fellow parishioners to write, meet with, and e-mail their legislators “until the vote occurs.”
More than 500 students and some parents and instructors spoke at more than 1,000 area Masses this weekend, archdiocese spokeswoman Donna Farrell said.
Referring to the limited time until the legislature’s summer break, Farrell said: “It’s a very narrow window, but we believe the momentum is there.”
In the last year, the archdiocese announced the merger of numerous Catholic schools. Chaput has stated that without vouchers and increased EITC funding, more schools will close. With vouchers and additional EITC money, more families could afford to send kids to the schools, Farrell said.
Gov. Corbett supports vouchers. The House, however, has not appeared interested in picking up the measure. “I’ve seen no real support on my side of the world,” stated State Rep. James Roebuck (D., Phila.), a voucher opponent.
Of the Catholic campaign, he said: “They have the right to advocate for what they want.” He added that he would meet this week in Philadelphia with some Catholic school students who want to discuss the issue.
Roebuck stated he did not support taking money away from public schools, didn’t believe vouchers were permitted under the say Constitution, and didn’t see them as addressing the issue of providing a good education for all students.
At St. Monica’s, however, vouchers had supporters.
“Options are good because they make everyone better,” stated the Rev. Joseph Kelley, parish pastor.
Joanne Zepp stated she was putting two kids through Catholic school.
“It’s hard. We sacrifice a lot,” she said.
“We’re taxpayers, too,” stated Maria Realdine, who has kids in Catholic and public schools. “We feel if they want to allocate more funding for the schools, it’s a good thing.”
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Submited at Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012 at 2:59 am on Politics by robert
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