HB 0737 - Alternative Education Options - Right to Learn and Broadening Options and Opportunities for Students Today Programs (Right to Learn Act of 2022)

HB 0737 - Alternative Education Options - Right to Learn and Broadening Options and Opportunities for Students Today Programs (Right to Learn Act of 2022)

Position: Support

Committee: House Ways & Means

The Maryland Catholic Conference offers this testimony in SUPPORT of House Bill 737, particularly to the extent that it provides scholarship continuity for low-income children through memorializing the Broadening Options and Opportunities for Students Today (BOOST) Scholarship Program in statute. 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 and the thousands more who would seek that assistance in the future

The BOOST Scholarship Program has provided expanded educational options for low-income Maryland K-12 students through the provision of scholarship assistance in the Maryland budget since 2016. One hundred percent of scholarship recipients are eligible for the Free and Reduced-Price Meal Program (FARMs). Scholarship recipients are certified as eligible through the State Department of Education (MSDE). This bill would continue to provide scholarship assistance to 100% low-income FARMs-eligible students.

To date, BOOST has provided over 15,000 scholarships, the majority of which have been awarded to minority recipients. BOOST is helping to break the cycle of poverty for minority students whose parents choose a Catholic school using a BOOST Scholarship, as an average of 98% of students who graduate at a Maryland Catholic school go on to graduate and attend college. BOOST is also enhancing the education of students with disabilities, with double scholarship awards going to students with special needs.

Noteworthy highlights regarding scholarships awarded for the current (2022-23) school year are as follows:

  • The majority of student-recipients were minorities (55.5%), including 32% Black and 15% Latino.
  • BOOST scholarship-recipient families collectively had an average income of just over $36,000 for their entire household.
  • 1,030 student-recipients were English Language Learners (ELLs)
  • 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. $5.36 million in scholarships were awarded to students who used BOOST to transfer from a public school.


*NOTE: 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.

  • 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.


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 families, fostering a partnership between Catholic schools and the State of Maryland to fight the cycle of poverty. Our Catholic schools remain committed to working alongside the State of Maryland in providing options for low-income students. It is for these reasons, on behalf of the families empowered by BOOST scholarships to choose Catholic schools, that we urge the Maryland General Assembly to secure BOOST funding well into the future through House Bill 737.