COMMITTEE: SENATE BUDGET & TAXATION, CAPITAL BUDGET SUBCOMMITTEE
The Maryland Catholic Conference offers this testimony in SUPPORT of the Senator James E. “Ed” DeGrange Nonpublic Aging Schools Program. The Conference represents the public policy 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 families of more than 50,000 students served by over 150 PreK-12 Catholic schools in Maryland.
The DeGrange Nonpublic Aging Schools Program provides grants to nonpublic schools for deferred maintenance, aging building improvements and infrastructure renovation, affecting tens of thousands of children. Named as a legacy program for Senator Ed DeGrange in 2018, this program has been funded at $3.5 million for the preceding six fiscal years. It is administered by the Interagency Commission on School Construction, but is a separate fund and does not take any money from the Public School Construction Program.
For the current school year, 185 schools benefited from in this program. The vast majority of Maryland’s 100,000-plus K-12 nonpublic school children attend a school that is eligible for this program, by virtue of the fact that their schools charge a tuition lower than the state per-pupil average expenditure for public school students. The program has made a statewide impact and has been highly popular with administrators in every county and legislative district.
The $3.5 million provided for this program goes a long way. Last year, scores of nonpublic schools met one or both of the following criteria that yielded a higher grant amount: a.) a 20% or greater FARMs-eligible student enrollment or b.) a school facility that is 50 or more years old. These lower-income or older schools have been able to complete maintenance projects or security upgrades that they’ve often had to postpone for several years due to budgetary constraints.
Specifically, thousands of lower and middle-income families are served by Maryland’s Catholic schools every year. Thus, the Maryland Catholic Conference offers its support for the Nonpublic Aging Schools Program as a means of supporting those students, families and schools in need, as it truly provides a safer, more productive school environment. Maryland’s Catholic school community emphatically thanks this committee for its past support of the Nonpublic Aging Schools Program and asks that it please continue that support in FY 2021.