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  • National Catholic Schools Week

    by Representative Daniel Lipinski

    Posted on 2013-02-05

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    LIPINSKI. Mr. Speaker, I rise today in honor of National Catholic Schools Week and to recognize the outstanding contribution that Catholic schools have made to our Nation. Catholic Schools Week was celebrated last week in schools all across the country.

    As a proud graduate of St. Symphorosa Grammar School and St. Ignatius College Prep, and a strong supporter of Catholic education, I, once again this year, introduced a resolution honoring Catholic schools. H. Res. 46 expresses support for ``the vital contributions of the thousands of Catholic elementary and secondary schools in the United States'' and ``the key role they play in promoting and ensuring a brighter, stronger future for the Nation.'' I'd like to thank the 28 Members who cosponsored this bipartisan resolution with me.

    Since 1974, the National Catholic Education Association and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops have organized and planned National Catholic Schools Week. This year's theme, ``Catholic Schools Raise the Standards,'' highlights recent initiatives undertaken by Catholic schools across the country to strengthen their already exemplary standards.

    America's Catholic schools produce graduates with the skills and integrity needed by our businesses, governments, and communities, emphasizing a well-rounded educational experience and instilling the values of ``giving back to the community'' and ``helping others.'' Nearly every Catholic school has a community service program, and every year their students volunteer half a million hours to their communities. My own decision to pursue a career in public service was fostered, in part, by dedicated teachers throughout my formative years in Catholic schools.

    {time} 1020 Today over 2 million elementary and secondary students are enrolled in nearly 7,000 Catholic schools. These students typically surpass their peers in math, science, reading, history, and geography in any NAEP test. The graduation rate for Catholic high school students is 99 percent, and 85 percent of graduates enrolled in four-year colleges, rates well above the national average. As we continually hear disturbing reports of our national test scores, these statistics are truly remarkable and should be commended.

    Notably, the success of Catholic schools does not depend on selectivity. Catholic schools accept nine out of every 10 students who apply and are highly effective in providing a quality education to students from every socioeconomic category, especially disadvantaged youth in underserved urban communities. Over the past 30 years, the percentage of minority students enrolled in Catholic schools has more than doubled, and today they constitute almost one-third of all Catholic school students. In times of economic hardship, Catholic schools provide an affordable alternative to other forms of private education.

    Now, in addition to producing well-rounded students, it is estimated that Catholic schools save taxpayers over $18 billion annually. The importance of these savings is undeniable as we in Congress, and lawmakers across the country, struggle with budget deficits.

    I was born and raised in the Chicago Archdiocese, where more than 87,000 students attend 250 schools. In the Joliet Diocese close by, 22,000 students are educated in 48 elementary and 7 high schools. In my district alone, there are nearly a dozen Catholic high schools and more than 50 grammar schools, including one of the best in my home parish, St. John of the Cross in Western Springs, which last year was named a National Blue Ribbon School by the Department of Education.

    The focus of this year's Catholic Schools Week, ``Catholic Schools Raise the Standards,'' demonstrates a continued commitment to excellence. The National Catholic Education Association has launched an initiative called the National Standards and Benchmarks for Effective Catholic Elementary and Secondary Schools which will make sure that standards are consistently high across the country. The dedicated teachers and administrators who work at Catholic schools, many of whom could earn much more elsewhere, are instrumental in upholding these standards. In recognizing Catholic Schools Week, we pay a special tribute to these professionals who sacrifice so much for their students.

    During Catholic Schools Week last week, I visited several schools in my district, including St. Dennis in Lockport, St. Cajetan in Chicago, and St. Alphonsus/St. Patrick in Lemont. At each of these schools, I was able to visit with students and witness the excellent Catholic education that was being instilled by teachers, administrators, pastors, and volunteer parents. The dedication of all those involved in educating these children demonstrated why Catholic schools are so successful [[Page H348]] not only in my district but across our Nation.

    Mr. Speaker, I hope my colleagues will join me today in honoring Catholic schools and all they contribute to our Nation.


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