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Statement in Support of SB 715/HB 1259: BOAST Maryland Tax Credit

By Mary Ellen Russell, Executive Director

House Ways and Means Committee (03/10/09) and Senate Budget and Taxation (03/11/09)

We offer this testimony in SUPPORT of House Bill 1259/Senate Bill 715, which would create the BOAST Maryland Tax Credit (Building Opportunities for All Students and Teachers in Maryland.) The benefits of this proposal are: not only would the BOAST Maryland tax credit encourage a increase in business support for Maryland’s students and teachers, it would also help to increase public awareness of the many successful educational options available to students and families in our local neighborhoods. Given the current budgetary challenges, the bill has been introduced with no funding.

For Catholic and many other nonpublic schools, the BOAST Maryland tax credit holds much promise for our efforts to continue a service we have provided for generations to lower- and middle-income families. The loss of that service would cost more than the added financial pressure the public schools would face. Historically, nonpublic schools have had a stabilizing presence in many local neighborhoods. Their closure would undoubtedly have a negative economic impact in communities where there is a critical need to attract businesses and residents.

The Maryland Catholic school community needs the support this program provides. Our school enrollments show that more and more families, especially at the elementary level, are unable to afford tuitions that continue to increase to meet the rising costs of teacher salaries. As the attached figures indicate, Catholic school elementary enrollment has decreased by more than 5,000 students in the past five years, and 17 Catholic schools have closed or merged in the state. Passage and implementation of the BOAST Maryland tax credit would significantly alleviate the challenges our schools are facing.

The BOAST Maryland tax credit would also benefit the public school community by complementing the support that the state already provides. School enrichment programs enable local public schools and businesses to build important partnerships that target the specific needs of their student populations. The BOAST Maryland tax credit would increase support for these enrichment programs, to help ensure that all students have access to opportunities that will truly enable them to reach their full potential, both in the classroom and beyond.

It is especially important to keep in mind the need to maintain affordable, educational options for all families in light of the upcoming military Base Realignment and Closure program, and the anticipated strain that our public schools are likely to face in accommodating new students. As the state addresses the challenges of public school overcrowding, it is important to recognize the role that nonpublic schools can play in helping to alleviate that strain – as long as they remain affordable to as many families as possible.

Finally, the BOAST Maryland tax credit proposal appreciates the vital role that our teachers play in the success of our students. It also recognizes the critical need to provide our teachers affordable access to the training they require to become and remain highly qualified.

Our state offers tax credits to reward investment in many worthy enterprises. Surely there is no investment more worthy of our support than the investment in Maryland’s students and teachers. The bill has been introduced with no funding, in response to current budgetary restrictions. We urge you to support House Bill 1259/Senate Bill 715 and the BOAST Maryland tax credit as an important vehicle for providing that support to all students and teachers in Maryland.