SB 190 — R00A03.05 - Funding for Educational Organizations – Broadening Options and Opportunities for Students Today (BOOST)

POSITION: SUPPORT WITH AMENDMENTS

COMMITTEE: SENATE BUDGET & TAXATION, EDUCATION BUSINESS & ADMINISTRATION SUBCOMMITTEE

The Maryland Catholic Conference offers this testimony in SUPPORT of the Broadening Options and Opportunities for Students Today (BOOST) Scholarship Program allocation of $10 million, as included in the proposed FY2021 Operating Budget.  We also offer two amendments, attached hereto.  The Conference represents the interests of the three (arch)dioceses serving Maryland, the Archdioceses of Baltimore and Washington and the Diocese of Wilmington, which together encompass over one million Marylanders.  We offer this testimony on behalf of the large number of low-income families attending Catholic schools statewide who receive BOOST scholarship assistance. 

The BOOST Scholarship Program provides expanded educational options for low-income students through the provision of scholarship assistance.  Scholarship recipients are certified through the State Department of Education (MSDE) and awarded through a BOOST Advisory Board, appointed by the General Assembly.  100% of scholarship recipients are eligible for the Free and Reduced-Price Meal Program (FARMs).       

Public school students are given significantly higher scholarship amounts.  In fact, the scholarship award ratio is approximately 3:1, being three scholarship dollars given to assist public school student transfers for every one dollar assisting low-income students already attending a nonpublic school. 

Noteworthy highlights regarding scholarships awarded for the 2019-2020 school year are as follows:

  • For this school year, there was increased demand from parents for BOOST. Certified applicants increased by nearly 26%, resulting in a waitlist of hundreds of students. 
  • Low-income students attending schools in Baltimore City received the highest amount of scholarship awards (over 35%% or nearly $2.2 million), followed by students in Baltimore, Prince George’s and Montgomery Counties (nearly 49% of students, totaling over $3 million, collectively).
  • The majority of student-recipients (57%) were minorities.
  • BOOST scholarship-recipient families collectively had an average total household income of just $32,998.
  • There were over 500 Latino student-recipients.
  • $3.5 million in scholarships were awarded to students who used BOOST to transfer from a public school.
  • Over 1,200 student-recipients were English Language Learners (ELLs). ELLs represent almost 40% of all scholarship recipients. 
  • Students showed significant assessment proficiency across the board.
  • BOOST scholarship recipients live in 20 of the 24 Maryland counties and Baltimore City.

 

In all, the BOOST Scholarship Program has helped to make Catholic schools an option for so many families.  The majority of BOOST scholarships and scholarships dollars are awarded to students whose parents chose a Catholic school this year, many having transferred from a public school.  The scholarship recipient demographic data cited above mirrors that of our school families in many Catholic schools, which welcome large numbers of low-income, immigrant and first-generation, minority, and non-Catholic students.    

The BOOST Scholarship Program has acted as an integral supplemental source of assistance to low-income Catholic school families, fostering a partnership between Catholic schools and the State of Maryland.  The data presented by MSDE thus exemplifies that BOOST scholarships are truly supplementing assistance to low-income students, as opposed to supplanting.  For the current school year, non-BOOST aid was listed at an average of nearly $5,000 per student, representing a true partnership in providing educational options between nonpublic schools and the State of Maryland.

Our Catholic schools, where the majority of scholarship recipients have chosen to be educated, remain committed to working alongside the State of Maryland in providing options for these deserving students.  It is for these reasons, on behalf of the families empowered by BOOST scholarships to choose Catholic schools, that we urge this committee and the entire General Assembly to maintain and expand the BOOST program.

 

Proposed Amendments to HB 150 / SB 190


R00A03.05 - Funding for Educational Organizations –

Broadening Options and Opportunities for Students Today (BOOST)

 

AMENDMENT No. 1  

On page 105, line 8, after “schools” insert: “PROGRAM ELIGIBILITY FOR ALL RENEWAL APPLICANTS SHALL BE 225% OF THE FEDERAL POVERTY LEVEL.” 

 

AMENDMENT No. 2  

On page 105, line 25, strike “all” and insert: “BOOST SCHOLARSHIP RECIPEINT