Baltimore, MD - Feb. 27 - With the 2014 session of the Maryland General Assembly just past the mid-point, the items of significant interest to day school families are now getting their turn. Maryland’s nonpublic school advocates must be on top of their game, as the next few weeks will determine the amount of state aid their schools will receive for the next year. In his Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 budget, Governor Martin O’Malley allocated Maryland’s highest-to-date total of funds to benefit nonpublic schools. The $9.6 million shared by two different programs reflect the same amount that came out of the final amended version of the FY2014 budget. The state’s nonpublic textbook/technology program was tagged at $6.1 million, while the new program that provides capital grants to update aging school structures was tagged at $3.5 million. Of the $9.6 million available statewide, Maryland’s Jewish schools receive approximately $800,000 of the total.
All line items in the Governor’s budget are subject to the scrutiny of the education subcommittees on both the House Appropriations Committee and the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee. In the hearing to determine upholding the Governor’s allocation for nonpublic school textbooks/technology that took place this past Friday, subcommittee members and the numerous state education officials in attendance heard testimony from Bais Yaakov sixth grader, Miriam Sadwin, in support of the $6.1 million allocation. Miss Sadwin’s testimony articulated the critical role played by the textbook/technology program in the ever-changing world, highlighting how technology has provided students with many new and exciting opportunities. Joining Miriam on the panel to testify in support was her father, Rabbi Ariel Sadwin (director of Agudath Israel of Maryland and president of the Maryland chapter of the Council for American Private Education) and Garrett O’Day, Esq. (deputy director of the Maryland Catholic Conference).
The next item of interest coming up this week is the Senate hearing for the Maryland Education Credit. This bill (once known as BOAST) would create a mechanism by which corporations who donate to nonpublic school scholarship foundations would be granted a 60% state tax credit for the amount of the contribution, thereby incentivizing making these donations. Programs similar to this proposal that have been enacted in a dozen other states, have provided nonpublic schools with vital support, especially at a time when nonpublic school enrollments have been down due to the difficulties posed by high tuition costs. This legislative proposal has been introduced several time over the last number of years, but has yet to receive the necessary level of support in House of Delegates. Despite this session being the last one before the next legislative elections, nonpublic school advocates are still hopeful that this bill find the long sought success this year.