The Maryland Catholic Conference offers this testimony in SUPPORT of the Senate Bill 1125. The Conference represents the public-policy interest of the three (arch)dioceses serving Maryland, which includes the Archdioceses of Baltimore and Washington and the Diocese of Wilmington, which together encompass over one million Marylanders.
Senate Bill 1125 would allow local education agencies or qualified nonprofit organizations to receive grants for the provision of extended-day and summer programs outside of the regular school calendar. Grants may be provided to programs in school districts where at least 50% of the student population qualify for a free lunch under the National School Lunch Program (FARMs-eligible). Grants will be allocated proportionally to the number of schools within the county. Additionally, the programs receiving grants must promote college and career readiness.
Enhancing the quality of education, particularly amongst lower-income students, is of utmost importance to the Catholic Church. (See: Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, 192). With the social challenges so many children face today, they need an environment where their education and success are a focal point. Often children are left without the after-school or summer support or structure that they need to foster continued learning and social development. This grant program would address some of those needs.
This bill would also help to foster better educational outcomes through college and career readiness, particularly in marginalized areas of our state, where inequities in income level can often act as a barrier to a quality education. The Conference maintains that our state should do all that it can to promote successful educational outcomes for children who might otherwise be deprived of the same opportunities as wealthier children.
It is for these reasons that we urge this Committee to report favorably on Senate Bill 1125.