SB 890 - Early Childhood Education - Child Care Provider Support Grant Program (The Child Care Provider Support Act)

Position: Support

Committee: Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee

The Maryland Catholic Conference offers this testimony in SUPPORT of Senate Bill 890. 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.

Senate Bill 890 would establish a grant program through the Maryland Department of Commerce to support Maryland’s child care providers, many of whom are beleaguered by the coronavirus pandemic. In order to be eligible for a grant, the bill requires that a program have already been in existence at the start of the pandemic and be currently open and operational and in good standing with the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE). Furthermore, grants will be limited to child care providers who have experienced a loss in enrollment of at least 20% for a period of at least two months of the pandemic.

These grants would provide much needed support to a vital and essential sector of Marylander’s everyday lives. Sixteen percent of providers have been forced to close their doors in Maryland since early 2020, leading to less options for child care access for working families. With the passage of this bill, pandemic-afflicted child care providers will be able to use grants to pay for such items as rent or mortgage expenses, utilities and payroll, helping to keep providers employed and afloat in this difficult time.

Child Care is an essential component to supporting strong, economically secure families. Additionally, the Church supports this bill as a part of its priority interest in alleviating poverty in our state, as enabling working parents’ continued access to child care services is an imperative part of combating poverty. Often, a barrier to sustainable and full-time employment is the availability and affordability of reliable child care services. The State should thus do all it can to support access to child care services for working parents.

The Conference appreciates your consideration, for these reasons, respectfully requests a favorable report on Senate Bill 890

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R00A03.04 - Funding for Educational Organizations Aid to Nonpublic Schools - Nonpublic Student Textbook Program

Position: Support

Committees: Senate Education, Business and Administration Subcommittee and House Education and Economic Development Subcommittee

The Maryland Catholic Conference offers this testimony in SUPPORT of the Nonpublic Student Textbook Program allocation included in the proposed FY2022 Operating Budget. 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 approximately 50,000 students served by over 150 PreK-12 Catholic schools in Maryland.

The Nonpublic Student Textbook Program benefits approximately 80,000 students in Maryland’s nonpublic schools annually, despite being limited to students who attend schools that charge a tuition lower than the state per pupil average. The parents of those students across the state are grateful to the General Assembly for its continuous support for this program. The program saves parents a significant amount of money every year, acting as a measure to defray the costs of textbooks and technology. This is particularly true in lower-income schools where parents often struggle to make ends meet.

Under this program, schools with lower-income enrollment receive a higher allocation of textbook and technology assistance per student. Specifically, thousands of lower and middle-income families are served by Maryland’s Catholic schools every year. We urge you to protect this allocation on behalf of these students and working families, to whom this program provides a much-needed benefit.

Our schools are grateful to this subcommittee and the many other members of the General Assembly who have continued to support our nonpublic schools. We are also grateful to the administrators at the Maryland State Department of Education, who work so hard every year to ensure that this program operates efficiently and with great accountability. We respectfully urge you to continue your support for the Nonpublic Student Textbook Program in the FY 2022 budget as a means of supporting our students and families.

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SB 674 - Environment - Commission on Environmental Justice and Sustainable Communities - Reform

Position: Support

Committee: Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee

The Maryland Catholic Conference (“Conference”) represents the public policy interests of the three Roman Catholic (arch) dioceses serving Maryland: the Archdiocese of Baltimore, the Archdiocese of Washington, and the Diocese of Wilmington.

Senate Bill 674 alters the membership of the Commission on Environmental Justice and Sustainable Communities; requiring the membership of the Commission to reflect the diversity of the State to the extent practicable; specifying the term of certain members; requiring the Department of the Environment to provide a new member with an orientation reviewing environmental justice issues in the State; altering the manner in which a chair is chosen for the Commission; requiring the Commission to meet at least six times per calendar year.

The Conference supports environmental legislation that recognizes the integral ecosystem in which we live and promotes diversity and inclusion in pursuit of a common good. In his encyclical, On Care for Our Common Home (Laudato Si’), Pope Francis states that “What kind of world do we want to leave to those who come after us, to children who are now growing up? This question not only concerns the environment in isolation; the issue cannot be approached piecemeal.”

Laudato Si’ is not an endorsement of specific public policy proposals; rather, it seeks to illustrate the importance of protecting our common home and issue guidance as to how to listen to all voices in solving this massive global crisis. Pope Francis explains that “[t]o take up these responsibilities and the costs they entail, politicians will inevitably clash with the mindset of short-term gain and results which dominates present-day economics and politics. But if they are courageous, they will attest to their God-given dignity and leave behind a testimony of selfless responsibility.” Senate Bill 674 aims to address some of the needed reforms policies and standards to be set to sustain and achieve a healthy global ecosystem.

The Conference appreciates your consideration and, for these reasons, respectfully requests a favorable report on Senate Bill 674.

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HB 1207 - Environment - Commission on Environmental Justice & Sustainable Communities - Reform

Position: Support

Committee: Environment and Transportation Committee

The Maryland Catholic Conference (“Conference”) represents the public policy interests of the three Roman Catholic (arch) dioceses serving Maryland: the Archdiocese of Baltimore, the Archdiocese of Washington, and the Diocese of Wilmington.

House Bill 1207 alters the membership of the Commission on Environmental Justice and Sustainable Communities; requiring the membership of the Commission to reflect the diversity of the State to the extent practicable; specifying the term of certain members; requiring the Department of the Environment to provide a new member with an orientation reviewing environmental justice issues in the State; altering the manner in which a chair is chosen for the Commission; requiring the Commission to meet at least six times per calendar year.

The Conference supports environmental legislation that recognizes the integral ecosystem in which we live and promotes diversity and inclusion in pursuit of a common good. In his encyclical, On Care for Our Common Home (Laudato Si’), Pope Francis states that “What kind of world do we want to leave to those who come after us, to children who are now growing up? This question not only concerns the environment in isolation; the issue cannot be approached piecemeal.”

Laudato Si’ is not an endorsement of specific public policy proposals; rather, it seeks to illustrate the importance of protecting our common home and issue guidance as to how to listen to all voices in solving this massive global crisis. Pope Francis explains that “[t]o take up these responsibilities and the costs they entail, politicians will inevitably clash with the mindset of short-term gain and results which dominates present-day economics and politics. But if they are courageous, they will attest to their God-given dignity and leave behind a testimony of selfless responsibility.” House Bill 1207 aims to address some of the needed reforms policies and standards to be set to sustain and achieve a healthy global ecosystem.

The Conference appreciates your consideration and, for these reasons, respectfully requests a favorable report on House Bill 1207.

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SB 592 - State Child Welfare System - Reporting

Position: Support

Committee: Senate Judicial Proceedings

The Maryland Catholic Conference offers this testimony in SUPPORT of Senate Bill 592. The Catholic Conference represents the public policy interests of the three (arch)dioceses serving Maryland, including the Archdioceses of Baltimore and Washington and the Diocese of Wilmington, which together encompass over one million Marylanders.

Senate Bill 592 would require the addition of certain important information categories to the reporting requirements relative to children and foster youth in the State child welfare system. The additional categories would help gather information to help formulate later policies for assisting youth in the State child welfare system with such things as maintaining educational continuity and special education services, safeguarding against instances of abuse and neglect, provision of mental health services, and limiting involvement with the justice system.

Foster youth and those in the State child welfare system face unique challenges, as they often must enter adulthood with little or no support system. They must often rely only on themselves to achieve educational milestones. They often lack access to or knowledge of services that children in other circumstances might otherwise be provided.

The Conference thus maintains that any support that foster care recipients and other children who rely on public assistance to guide them is a worthwhile investment in Maryland’s future. Therefore, we urge this committee to report favorably on Senate Bill 592.

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SB 218 - Child Tax Credit & Expansion of the Earned Income Credit (House amendment)

Position: Support

Committee: House Ways and Means Committee

The Maryland Catholic Conference offers this testimony in SUPPORT of Senate Bill 218. The Catholic Conference represents the public policy interests of the three (arch)dioceses serving Maryland, including the Archdioceses of Baltimore and Washington and the Diocese of Wilmington, which together encompass over one million Marylanders.

Senate Bill 218 creates a refundable tax credit against the State income tax for up to $500 per child for any child under the age of six or for children with disabilities who are under the age of seventeen. To qualify, however, parents must have a federal adjusted gross income of $6,000 or less annually.

The Church has long supported legislation such as Child Tax Credits that provide dignity for low-income people and their families. Furthermore, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has supported proposals seeking to “expand assistance to parents with children and improve family formation and stability.” (Letter to Congress on Child Tax Credit, USCCB, 3/16/2016) In the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace asserted that all persons deserve "a wage sufficient to maintain a family and allow it to live decently…There can be several different ways to make a family wage a concrete reality. Various forms of important social provisions help to bring it about, for example, family subsidies and other contributions for dependent family members…" Establishing a Child Tax Credit in Maryland is one significant and tangible way to achieve this stability for low-income families throughout the state.

Child tax credits are proven anti-poverty tools, aiming to eliminate the need for families to make the impossible and unnecessary choice between financial stability and family stability. Although a $6,000 income cap is a seemingly low limit, those who are eligible to claim the credit will notice immediate and substantial financial assistance, particularly when they have multiple dependents. The Conference strongly supports legislation that addresses this need. Legislative proposals such as the creation of a child tax credit and the expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit are important tools for achieving this assistance and combatting poverty.

The Conference also supports the amendments made to this bill in the House of Delegates. Both in our pews and through those who we serve, the Church has seen firsthand how undocumented individuals have been affected by the pandemic. Those Marylanders often work in professions essential to the everyday lives of their neighbors and have braved the pandemic despite being disproportionately affected. Low-income individuals and families utilizing an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) to file taxes are now represented in this bill, and rightfully so.

It is for these reasons that the Conference respectfully requests a favorable report on Senate Bill 218.

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SB 403 - Public Institutions of Higher Education - Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Individuals - Academic and Employment Opportunities

Position: Support

Committee: Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee

The Maryland Catholic Conference offers this testimony in SUPPORT of Senate Bill. The Catholic Conference represents the public-policy interests of the three (arch)dioceses serving Maryland, including the Archdioceses of Baltimore and Washington and the Diocese of Wilmington, which together encompass over one million Marylanders.

Senate Bill 403 would require the Maryland Higher Education Commission, in consultation with public institutions of higher education and Maryland Correctional Enterprises, to establish a process to increase access to academic and employment opportunities at public institutions of higher education for incarcerated and formerly incarcerated individuals who are or were employed by Maryland Correctional Enterprises during their incarceration; and specifying the requirements for the process.

In its pastoral statement “Responsibility, Rehabilitation, and Restoration: A Catholic Perspective on Crime and Criminal Justice” (USCCB, 2000), the United States conference of Catholic Bishops cited the “absence of educational opportunities” among considerations “contributing to a high rate of recidivism”. The USCCB also cited “education” as one of the key “necessities that enable inmates to live in dignity.”

The Church maintains that systems of justice, including incarceration, should be centered around restorative justice. In doing so, systems of justice provide for second chances, providing hope for those who are incarcerated or formerly incarcerated. Education is a means to a fruitful and productive life upon release and is a preventative measure against post-release poverty and/or recidivism. For these important reasons, we urge a favorable report on Senate Bill 403.

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SB 405 - Higher Education - Student Identification Cards - Required Information

Position: Support

Committee: Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee

The Maryland Catholic 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.

Senate Bill 405 requires institutions of higher education to list a suicide helpline on the back of student ID cards. Since students frequently carry their ID cards in their phone case or wallet, having the hotline number on their card will ensure help is just a phone call away.

The rate of suicide in Maryland has risen steadily over the last two decades and its effects devastate families and communities. Suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death for young people in Maryland[1] and in a single month last year during the pandemic, one in four college aged young people reported seriously considering suicide[2].

Those experiencing mental illness are among the most marginalized and underserved in our society. The Catholic Church through its parishes, charities and other ministries reaches out pastorally to those struggling with mental illness. The Maryland Catholic Conference supports SB 405 because suicide prevention represents our commitment to the dignity of every human life and our belief that each person is made in the image and likeness of God. Any person experiencing mental illness or suicidal thoughts deserves compassionate care and healing to rediscover their intrinsic value and worth. 

It is for these reasons that the Maryland Catholic Conference respectfully urges a favorable report for SB 405. Thank you for your consideration.

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[1] American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, “Suicide Facts & Figures: Maryland 2019”

[2] CDC, “Mental Health, Substance Use, and Suicidal Ideation During the COVID-19 Pandemic” June 24–30, 2020

 

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SB 470 - Institute for Innovation and Implementation – Pregnant, Expecting, and Parenting Students – Data Collection and Report

Position: Support

Committee: Senate Health, Education and Environmental Affairs Committee

The Maryland Catholic Conference represents the public policy interests of the three Roman Catholic (arch)dioceses serving Maryland: the Archdiocese of Baltimore, the Archdiocese of Washington, and the Diocese of Wilmington, which together encompass over one million Marylanders.

Senate Bill 470 requires certain counties’ boards of education to collect, track and submit data about the number of pregnant and parenting students, their experiences and opportunities for professional development to the Institute for Innovation and Implementation in the University of Maryland School of Social Work. The Institute will then issue a report in four years on the opportunities, challenges and recommendations for pregnant and parenting students.

The Maryland Catholic Conference supports HB 439 because it will record data reflecting the needs of student mothers and fathers to continue their education. Many pregnant and parenting students experience discrimination, lag behind their peers in educational achievement or drop out of school. Educational achievement affects the lifetime income of teen mothers: two-thirds of families started by teens are poor, and nearly one in four will depend on welfare within three years of a child’s birth. (Teen Pregnancy Rates Affects Graduation Rates. National Council on State Legislatures, 2013.)

Research has also demonstrated a strong link between parents’ educational level and children’s well-being: Children with more educated parents tend to have better cognitive skills and higher academic achievement than children with less educated parents (Pew Research Center 2013).  Given the importance of education for pregnant and parenting teens, it is surprising that so little is known about what it takes to encourage, prepare, and support these adolescents. 

Too often a student mother or father is forced to choose between their child and their dreams for educational attainment. Tracking and assessing the challenges of pregnant and parent students in high school will help Maryland and the General Assembly learn more about what it takes to encourage, prepare, and support these adolescents.

It is for these reasons that the Conference asks for a favorable report of House Bill 439. Thank you for your consideration.

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SB 438 - Public Schools – Pregnant and Parenting Students – Policies and Reports

Position: Support

Committee: Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee

The Maryland Catholic Conference represents the public policy interests of the three Roman Catholic (arch)dioceses serving Maryland: the Archdiocese of Baltimore, the Archdiocese of Washington, and the Diocese of Wilmington, which together encompass over one million Marylanders.

Senate Bill 438 requires the Maryland State Department of Education to develop a model policy to support the educational goals of pregnant and parenting students which includes providing a private lactation room for breastfeeding, advice for parenting students on transportation and childcare, training personnel on the policy and inputting the policy in the student handbook. The bill also requires each County Department of Education to establish a policy to support pregnant and parenting students’ educational goals.

The Maryland Catholic Conference supports SB 438 because it ensures that a young mother receives the support she needs to continue her education. Many pregnant and parenting students experience discrimination, lag behind their peers in educational achievement or drop out of school which in turn affects the lifetime wellbeing of these mothers and their children. Just 38% of teen mothers will earn a high school diploma by age 18 (ChildTrends, “Diploma Attainment Among Teen Mothers”).

Too often a student mother is forced to choose between her child and her dreams for educational attainment. Providing necessary accommodations to each student mother’s unique situation will help her achieve academic equity and address the challenges she faces.

It is for these reasons that the Maryland Catholic Conference respectfully urges a favorable report for SB 438. Thank you for your consideration.

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