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Fact Sheet: Providing Greater Opportunities for Our Children by Ensuring Access to Faith-Based Schools

April 24, 2008

White House Summit Explores Ways To Help Faith-Based And Other Public School Alternatives Serve Our Nation's Urban Students

Today, President Bush hosted a White House Summit on Inner-City Children and Faith-Based Schools in Washington, D.C. The event brought together educators, policymakers, and community leaders to develop local strategies to keep the doors of inner-city faith-based schools open to America's disadvantaged students. For many inner-city children across our Nation, America's faith-based schools provide an option for a better future. As we continue working to improve urban public schools through the No Child Left Behind Act, we must also work to preserve important educational alternatives for underserved students attending chronically underperforming public schools.

  • Non-public schools, including faith-based schools, have helped educate generations of low-income students, but they are disappearing at an alarming rate. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, from 2000 to 2006, nearly 1,200 inner-city faith-based schools closed, displacing 425,000 students.
  • To continue the promise of a quality education for every student, we must pursue innovative solutions to improve public education and keep our high-performing faith-based schools open as valuable education alternatives.

The Administration Is Providing More Choices For Parents Of Children Trapped In Underperforming Schools

Private schools serving America's poorest children deliver a valuable public service. Federal funds support religious institutions of higher learning and can help inner-city families find greater choices for educating their children.

  • President Bush calls on Congress to fund $800 million in scholarships for 21st Century Learning Opportunities. These scholarships will give parents the opportunity to enroll their children in high-quality after-school and summer school programs aimed at increasing student achievement, including programs run by faith-based schools and other community organizations.
  • In his 2008 State of the Union Address, President Bush proposed expanding scholarships for students trapped in troubled public schools around the country through the Pell Grants for Kids program. Pell Grants for Kids would supplement State and local efforts to increase educational options for low-income K-12 students enrolled in underperforming schools. Under the Pell Grants for Kids program, the Department of Education would make competitive awards to States, cities, local educational agencies, and nonprofit organizations to develop K-12 scholarship programs for eligible low-income students attending schools that have not made adequate yearly progress under No Child Left Behind for 5 years or that have a graduation rate of less than 60 percent.
  • In 2004, President Bush signed into law the D.C. Choice Incentive Act, which expands choices for low-income students trapped in underperforming public schools. This law created Washington's Opportunity Scholarship program, which has helped more than 2,600 of the poorest children in our Nation's capital find new hope at a faith-based or other non-public school. This program is showing signs of success, and Congress should reauthorize it so children can continue to benefit from Washington's excellent private, charter, and faith-based schools.

Across The Country, Citizens Are Committed To Preserving America's Faith-Based Schools

Today's Summit is addressing how State and local governments, business communities, philanthropists, higher education institutions, and others can contribute to America's faith-based schools.

Nearly 10 years ago, private donors gave approximately $15 million to the Diocese of Memphis to help revive Catholic schools in the city's poorest neighborhoods. With this money, the Diocese launched the Jubilee Schools initiative and re-opened Catholic schools that had been shuttered for decades. Today, 10 Jubilee schools serve more than 1,400 children. Eighty-one percent of these children are non-Catholic, and nearly 96 percent live at or below poverty level. With this strong academic program, students' scores on a number of standardized tests have gone up.

Notre Dame's Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) prepares talented college graduates to work as teachers in under-served Catholic schools. These graduates commit to teach for 2 years as they earn their masters degrees in education, yet many remain in Catholic schools long after the program ends. Today, about 650 ACE teachers and graduates are at work in Catholic schools across the United States, including in New Orleans.

In Chicago, a group of Jesuit priests established the Cristo Rey school where students work part-time for local businesses to finance their Catholic school education. For four days a week, students go to class, and on the fifth day, they report for work at some of Chicago's most prestigious firms and provide businesses with energetic, reliable workers for high-turnover jobs. In return, the students get a top-notch education and real-world work experience. Today, there are 19 Cristo Rey schools across the Nation.

George W. Bush, Fact Sheet: Providing Greater Opportunities for Our Children by Ensuring Access to Faith-Based Schools Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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