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Catholic schools say they’re harmed by decline in scholarship granting organizations


In 2019, not enough Alabamians specified that their income tax be allotted to the Scholarship Granting Organizations that help Alabama students assigned by the state to Alabama’s poorest-performing schools. That shortfall has adversely affected thousands of Alabama children, who may lose their scholarship funding, proponents say.

Nowhere has that been felt more than in Alabama’s Catholic School System, whose schools have used the scholarships to help needy children escape their failing schools.

Because of this loss of funding, Birmingham Bishop Robert Baker is asking church supporters to make donations to make up for some of the shortfall.

The Bishop is also asking that Alabama taxpayers tell their tax prepares to allot some of their state taxes towards assisting the SGOs.

“For those who are unaware, there is at this very time a dire situation facing most of our Catholic Schools,” Bishop Baker said. “Alabama’s Scholarship Granting Organizations (also known as SGOs) have experienced a great reduction of funds available to our schools. This shortfall of funding reaches well over $3 million for this year alone. A number of our schools have relied upon this funding for their needy students and cannot continue having those students in their schools without that help, so we are asking all in our Catholic Community to come forward with your generosity and prayers to come forward the weekend March 7 and 8 and we are also asking that in this tax cycle, that is now upon us, that everyone specify a tax allotment to one of those SGOs available in your state tax allotment. Especially for those who have helped us in the past and those are: Scholarship Christian, Rocket City SGO. Alabama Opportunity Scholarship fund, State Squared Opportunity Scholarship, and Renaissance Scholarship.

“Please give a donation to this critical cause now to the Diocese of Birmingham in Alabama and in your check note that the gift is for Robert Baker’s Catholic School Emergency Fund. Please place your much needed donation in a parish collection basket this weekend, or send that donation directly to Bishop Robert J. Baker; Catholic Schools Emergency Fund; P.O. Box 12047; Birmingham, Alabama 35202. And I thank you sincerely and may God bless you for your generosity and your prayers.”

The Diocese of Mobile is confronted with a similar crisis with their Catholic Schools. Alabama is divided into two Dioceses by the Catholic Church.

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Alabama’s public schools are generally regarded as the worst in the country. On recent reading tests, Alabama students performed 46th in reading and 49th in Math for a cumulative score of 52 our of 52 and there are wide differences in performance between schools. Only students from Alabama’s worst performing schools are able to apply for the scholarships. Alabama’s worst schools are typically in Alabama’s poorest neighborhoods. Children born into poverty go to failing schools and emerge unready for college or the workforce feeding the cycle of poverty that helps keep poor people poor generation after generation.

The state had expected $30 million in revenue for the SGOs, but instead have collected only $17 million, a $13 million shortfall. Marking to have a portion of your state income taxes go to the SGOs does not cost you any money or raise your tax burden any.

The Alabama Accountability Act was created by the legislature to increase school choice. Dominated by the Alabama Education Association for decades, the state resisted any expansion of school choice until after the Republicans took control of the legislature in 2010 for the first time in 135 years.


Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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