Committee: House Education & Economic Development Subcommittee
The Maryland Catholic Conference offers this testimony in SUPPORT of the Nonpublic Schools Nursing Program allocation included in the proposed FY2023 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, as well as the one in every nine Maryland students educated in a nonpublic school.
This Program would create a reimbursement program to assist schools with the cost of nursing services. The coronavirus pandemic has only highlighted an existing need for school nursing services in our Catholic schools. There were already a significant number of lower-income Catholic schools throughout the state that could not afford to have full-time nurses on staff. Lower and middle-income nonpublic schools often charge one-half, or even one-third, of the tuition equivalent of the state per pupil average cost for public schools. Thus, their operating income often leaves them on small budgets. The ability to seek reimbursement for student health services would provide a much-needed benefit to students, particularly those who are low-income and minority.
It is important to note that the Department of Legislative Services asserts that significant federal funding has gone to nonpublic schools thus mitigating the need for these services. This is an incorrect and flawed rationale. None of that federal funding, the distribution of which has been in possession of the State of Maryland for well over a year and is still incomplete to this date, has been earmarked for nursing. This was not an allowable use of those expenditures under federal law. Thus, this program is very much needed.
Statewide, there are hundreds of Catholic and other nonpublic schools, educating nearly 120,000-plus students. Maryland’s Catholic schools educate tens of thousands of lower and middle-income families every year, and we respectfully request your support for the Nonpublic Schools Nursing Program in the FY 2023 budget as a means of supporting our students.