Friday, October 2, 2020

Catholic schools excluded from Heroes Act help during pandemic

Bishop Michael Barber - Diocese of Oakland

U.S. Bishops’ Education Chairman Decries Exclusion of Catholic School Students and Families from Revised HEROES Act

Statement by Bishop Michael C. Barber, SJ of Oakland

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The U.S. House of Representatives soon will consider House Democrats’ new COVID-19 aid package, the revised Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act. The bill includes $225 billion for education, including $182 billion for K-12 schools. However, the bill provides no equitable services for students in non-public schools and maintains language that prohibits any funds from being used to provide financial assistance to non-public school children. This has the effect of excluding virtually any aid to students, families, and teachers in non-public schools.

Bishop Michael C. Barber, SJ of Oakland, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Catholic Education, made the following statement:

“The COVID-19 pandemic has affected all Americans, including those whose children are enrolled in Catholic and non-public schools. It is unconscionable that this latest aid proposal would exclude these American children and the schools they attend from emergency aid that would ease the financial burdens they have borne as a result of the pandemic. The pandemic’s economic devastation has already led to the closure of at least 150 Catholic schools, many in low-income areas that serve children of color. Congress and the White House must come together to support emergency aid that prioritizes the health and safety of all students, including non-public school children and the nearly two million students enrolled in Catholic schools.”

The USCCB supports robust education aid for all students and has asked the Congress to include the bipartisan School Choice Now proposal in any COVID aid package. School Choice Now would provide emergency tuition scholarships to hard-hit families. The USCCB has also advocated for equitable services for Catholic and other non-public schools. Non-public schools have had access to equitable services since 1965 and have been included in all recent federal emergency aid bills until now.

Recent Statements by the U.S. Bishops on Emergency Relief for Catholic Schools:

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