WASHINGTON (September 22, 2005)— Catholic school children hurt by Katrina need help to continue their schooling, the superintendent of Catholic schools in the Diocese of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, told a Senate subcommittee September 22.
"A scholarship or 'An Equal Entitlement Certificate' will allow the displaced families to place their children in nonpublic schools similar to their former schools" while families rebuild their lives, said Sister Michaeline Green, a Dominican sister who heads the Baton Rouge Catholic schools and chairs the Nonpublic School Commission of the Louisiana Department of Education.
Families need these certificates to reimburse schools for expenses they have accrued and will continue to accrue, she said.
"Funding is needed to hire additional teachers and aides, provide additional classrooms and transportation, not to mention added janitorial expenses and utilities," Sister Green added.
She highlighted the high percentage of the state's students in non-public schools.
"Louisiana has a unique situation in that one-third of all students attend nonpublic schools compared to the national average of 11 percent." she said. "In four of the severely impacted counties (called parishes in Louisiana) around New Orleans, approximately 61,000 students of the 187,000 total student population attend non-public schools from Pre-K to grade 12. Most of these students come from low- to middle-income families who are making a great financial sacrifice to send their children to a school of their choice for academic, religious and safety reasons."
In the Diocese of Baton Rouge, Catholic school enrollment increased by almost 25 percent due to Katrina, she said.
In the neighboring diocese of Shreveport, Louisiana, the Catholic school enrollment increased by more than 26 percent to accommodate evacuees from the hurricane torn region.
Sister Green's testimony is available at www.usccb.org/education/green.htm.