The Maryland Catholic Conference offers this testimony in SUPPORT of the Senate Bill 1170. 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 1170 would rebrand the existing College Readiness Outreach Program as the Next-Generation Scholars of Maryland Program. This legislation would act to ensure that Guaranteed Access Grants are effectively distributed. Counties with at least 50% FARMs-eligible students would be awarded $5 million annually until FY 2023 for scholarship distribution under this program.
Guaranteed Access Grant-eligible 7th and 8th grade students would agree to specified terms and have access to such programs and services such as help formulating high school and college graduation plans, summer internships, career interest assessments, mentoring and college campus visits. Both public and nonpublic school students are eligible to participate in the Guaranteed Access Grant Program, so long as they meet the requirements.
The Catholic Conference supports wholeheartedly any effort to assist low-income students, who are often among the most marginalized in terms of access to 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. Access to a quality education leads to gainful employment, thus breaking the cycle of poverty plaguing many low-income communities. Pope Francis has stated that the Church should highly value education, leading to gainful employment, as it is through the same that “human beings express and enhance the dignity of their lives.” (Evangelii Gaudium, 192).
States should do all that they can to level the playing fields across income levels with regard to access to education. It is in the best interest for the future of our state to ensure that low-income students are able to break the cycle of poverty and have access to the endless possibilities that a quality education can provide. Therefore, we urge this Committee to report favorably on Senate Bill 1170.