State officials from across the Baltimore area didn’t hold back when they met with constituents Wednesday night at Talmudical Academy to discuss funding for parochial schools.
“This is probably not happening this year,” said State Sen. Bobby Zirkin (D-11), noting, along with Del. Adrienne Jones (D-10), that the combination of budget constrictions and a big election year doesn’t lend itself to controversial legislation like the Maryland Education Credit, the topic at the forefront of the discussion.
The credit, which is being promoted by a number of different private school organizations and parents of those who attend the schools, would provide businesses with a 60 percent tax credit for donations made to organizations that provide financial assistance to nonpublic schools. At this point, it is not a bill and is only being discussed in “open house” meetings hosted by nonpublic schools in regions throughout the state.
Zirkin also told meeting attendees that they should factor in the possibility that this money they want from the state — $15 million to fund the credit — would more than likely come with strings attached.
“With money comes restrictions, too,” he said. “You can’t separate the one from the other.”
State Sen. Delores Kelley said she understands the parents’ perspective, having sent her children to Pilgrim Christian Day School.
“I’m sure that many of you struggle to support the choices that you make,” she said.
However, she added, those parents who send their children to nonpublic schools have a choice.
“My concern is that we are just so far from where we should be as far as public education is concerned,” Kelley said, noting that the state’s official and legal obligation is to provide for public schools first, a concept Zirkin seconded.
Of the seven state officials who attended (Zirkin, Kelley, Jones, Del. Dan Morhaim (D- 11), Del. Jon Cardin (D-11), Del. Dana Stein (D-11), Del. Sandy Rosenberg (D-41)), only two — Cardin and Rosenberg — expressed support for the idea, though others said they looked forward to hearing more details.
When it comes to helping students in the nonpublic school system, Rosenberg said, “We can do better.”