Pitt Diocese says Parents Need Not Lobby for Grants

Wednesday, 30 Nov 2011 05:37 AM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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Parents of financial aid students in Pittsburgh’s Catholic schools won’t have to lobby for a school-voucher bill in order to keep their children’s school loans after all. Last month, principals in the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh were told parents who receive tuition assistance had to contact their legislators about the bill and document it, or lose their children’s funding, according to the Pittsburgh Post Gazette.
Ronald T. Bowes, the diocese’s assistant superintendent for policy and development, emailed the instructions to the principals. Even though most of the principals didn’t forward the memo to parents, the diocese has issued a reversal after receiving considerable negative feedback, and said Bowes had "misstated long-standing diocesan policy relative to the distribution of financial aid to parents."
Bowes’ email to the principals, however, was definitive, saying:  “We must be relentless in our efforts to help pass school choice this year. I am asking you to inform parents that have received tuition assistance that they must contact their legislators and return the contact form attached to you in order to receive a grant next year. I then want you to return these contact forms to me. This way we can insure that a solid effort is being carried out by our diocese.”
The forms asked for the date, name of the parent of the school, the name of the state legislators contacted — and how. The forms  also asked if the legislator opposed the bill, and why.
The diocese nixed those letters, saying tuition assistance grants were not contingent on whether the parents lobbied the lawmakers.
The diocese oversees about 22,000 students in 100 schools in 6 counties, mostly in Allegheny County, where Pittsburgh is located. The Bishop's Education Fund distributed nearly $600,000 to more than 1,800 students last school year.
The bill is unlikely to come up for a vote before the end of the year, but Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett, who supports school vouchers, has said he would like to see the bill pass.

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