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Spellings to Work with Catholic Leaders on Education

And so we will have public schools digging into their coffers to pay Catholic schools.

Education Secretary calls for expansion of supplemental services by Catholic schools and organizations

U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings today praised the contribution Catholic schools have made to educating students across this country and encouraged Catholic leaders to become after-school tutoring providers (supplemental educational service providers) under the No Child Left Behind Act. Spellings, who gave her remarks at the Congressional Advocacy Days conference of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, is the first U.S. Secretary of Education to have a child currently attending a Catholic school. She also discussed the importance of giving parents educational options.

"The president and I hope you will consider becoming providers of supplemental educational services," said Spellings to attendees of the conference. "Thousands of students in your communities could benefit from the knowledge and skills of your teachers. And you can do it in a program that protects your religious freedom because the Department has issued a faith-based regulation with strong language to protect religious organizations providing supplemental services."

Under No Child Left Behind, when schools fall short perennially of their responsibilities, students and parents in those schools are given options. The law's Supplemental Educational Services (SES) provision gives parents of eligible low-income children the opportunity and federal funding to choose a private tutor or other academic support to help their child succeed in school. Services must be provided outside of the regular school day and may include academic assistance such as tutoring, remediation and other educational interventions.

Providers of supplemental educational services include non-profit entities, for-profit entities, local education agencies, public schools, public charter schools, private schools, public or private institutions of higher education, and faith-based organizations. In the program's first year alone, over 100,000 low-income students across the country benefited from these tutoring services.

Secretary Spellings also noted the president's desire to provide choice to more Americans, especially when public schools "fall short of their responsibilities."

"That's why the president's new budget includes $50 million for a new Choice Incentive Fund, which would help states and districts develop school choice programs—similar to the one we have already set up in Washington, D.C. We want parents across the country to have a choice in their child's education," said Spellings.

The Washington, D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, now in its first year, has made school choice a reality for over 1,000 D.C. students. About 600 of those students chose to enroll in Catholic schools, and over half of the 53 private schools participating this year are Catholic.

The Department will continue working with Catholic school leaders, as the secretary announced her intention to host a larger meeting with national private school leaders from across the country.

In closing, the secretary expressed gratitude to the bishops, saying "Both as the secretary of education and as a parent, I know what an important role Catholic schools play in the landscape of American education. I want to thank all of you for your hard work on behalf of my daughter and the 2.4 million other children in Catholic schools."

— Press Release
U. S. Department of Education


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