October 13, 2015
A Catholic legislator and his spouse returned to the educational roots of their three children when they visited the Cathedral School of St. Jude October 1 in St. Petersburg. Representative Larry Ahern (R-Seminole) and his wife Maureen participated in a roundtable discussion with scholarship program parents, Father Joseph Waters, rector of the Cathedral Parish, Ross Bubolz, principal of the school, along with other guests.
The meeting concluded with a tour of the pre-kindergarten to 8th grade school. The tour highlighted how the faculty and staff view their mission as involving entire families, and not just their children, in efforts to instill virtues and deepen relationships with Christ.
During the 75-minute discussion, the Aherns noted that their three children had attended the school. “We’ve had that privilege and knowledge of what a Catholic education is all about,” Rep. Ahern said. They expressed appreciation for how Catholic schools serve their local community, the state and the nation.
The Representative also described the savings generated by the Florida Tax Credit (FTC) Scholarship Program as “the best kept secret of the program.” The program is expected to serve more than 78,000 children from low-income families during the current school year; this total includes more than 4,200 students in Catholic schools. The roundtable participants discussed how the per-child scholarship under the program is set this year at $5,677 per child while the basic per-child funding for public students is $7,097.
According to annual data compiled by the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops (FCCB), 173 Catholic schools participated in the FTC Program during the 2013-2014 school year. These schools served 9,448 FTC students generating more than $46.1 million in scholarships. Catholic schools in turn saved the state of Florida more than $447.4 million. This savings results from the total cost of educating these children if enrolled in public schools minus the scholarship dollars generated by key government programs (FTC, McKay for children with special needs, and Voluntary Prekindergarten Education programs).
One mom of a child currently attending the school noted that she faced health challenges and the loss of a job soon after her youngest of three children entered kindergarten. Since she also had an older child attending St. Petersburg Catholic High School, she was not sure how she would be able to continue obtaining the Catholic education she desired for her family. When she first heard about the availability of the FTC Scholarship Program, she said she “cried her eyes out” because she was so grateful.
Other roundtable participants included: Eired Jackson Eddy, Legislative Aide to Rep. Ahern; James Herzog, Associate Director for Education, FCCB; and Glen Gilzean, Vice President, Family and Community Affairs, and, Sara Clements, Director of External Affairs, Step Up For Students.