The Conference supported several versions of the Maryland Education Credit which were introduced this year, including bills by Sen. DeGrange, Gov. Hogan, and Del. Antonio Hayes. With the support of House leadership, a bill creating the BOOST tax credit was also introduced by Del. Keith Haynes. The Senate version of the tax credit passed the Senate but did not receive a vote in the House. However, after 10 years of advocacy, a $5 million scholarship program was created in the budget which requires the Maryland State Department of Education, with the guidance of a seven-member BOOST advisory board, to administer a scholarship program for students who qualify for free-and-reduced-price lunch to attend nonpublic schools that participate in the textbook program. Scholarships will be available for the 2016-17 school year. The program’s continuation will depend on the Governor including an annual allocation in the budget that must then be approved by the legislature each legislative session.
“This is something that we have been pursuing for years and years,” said Mary Ellen Russell, executive director of the Maryland Catholic Conference. “We have a lot of champions to thank. From the very start, Sen. Ed DeGrange has been a real hero in advocating for this and never giving up and pushing very hard year after year. I don’t think we could have accomplished this without his leadership and that of the Senate president, Mike Miller, who has been a strong supporter of this effort. Given the unrest in Baltimore City, I think House leadership finally agreed that we had to pursue every possible avenue we can to give students more opportunities. The end result is exciting for poor families in the state of Maryland.”