Position: Support with amendments
Committees: Senate Education, Business and Administration Subcommittee and House Education & Economic Development 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 FY2022 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 2020-2021 school year are as follows:
- The majority of student-recipients were minorities.
- The majority of program dollars go toward students who used BOOST to transfer from public school, with a marked increase in that group for this year. $4.7 million in scholarships were awarded to students who used BOOST to transfer from a public school.
- For this school year, there was increased demand from parents for BOOST. Certified applicants increased significantly, resulting in a waitlist of over 1,300 students.
- BOOST scholarship recipients live in 21 of the 24 Maryland counties and Baltimore City, but the vast majority are low-income students from Maryland’s four largest jurisdictions.
- BOOST scholarship-recipient families collectively had an average income of just under $36,000 for their entire household.
- Approximately 950 student-recipients were English Language Learners (ELLs).
- Students have showed significant assessment proficiency across the board throughout the history of the program.
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, 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 588 / SB 491
R00A03.05 - Funding for Educational Organizations –
Broadening Options and Opportunities for Students Today (BOOST)
AMENDMENT No. 1
On page 104, line 8, after “are” insert: “FIRST TIME APPLICANTS AND”
On page 104, line 10, after “program” insert “, OR ARE RENEWAL APPLICANTS WHOSE HOUSEHOLD INCOME IS 225% OF THE FEDERAL POVERTY LEVEL OR LESS,”
AMENDMENT No. 2
On page 104, line 28, strike “all” and insert: “BOOST SCHOLARSHIP RECIPIENT”