CNS and Staff Reports
While the Education Savings Account program continues to face challenges in Tennessee, President Donald Trump, in a April 26 conference call with about 600 Catholic church leaders and educators, including Diocese of Nashville School Superintendent Rebecca Hammel, pledged his continued support for school choice and Catholic schools.
President Trump said he would continue to support issues vital to the Catholic Church, especially abortion, religious freedom and school choice, according to Crux, an online Catholic news organization, which obtained a recording of the call. Trump also said he would seek federal financial support for Catholic schools as they confront the coronavirus pandemic.
“My biggest takeaway from the call is that President Trump supports our Catholic schools, and is aware of the needs,” Hammel said. “Through policy, he’s shown a commitment to private education.”
Many schools across the country have sustained severe financial stresses since the pandemic emerged in the U.S. in February, according to the National Catholic Educational Association.
The president’s remarks, including his comment that he is the “best (president) in the history of the Catholic Church,” lasted about 15 minutes before he fielded questions, according to the report.
The topic of federal support to prop up Catholic schools was the primary concern expressed by participants. The need is particularly acute under the pandemic even though some schools have obtained forgivable Small Business Administration loans under the new Paycheck Protection Program.
Catholic school administrators nationwide face major questions as they prepare for the new academic year, however, because of the potential loss of tuition from families whose wage-earners have suffered layoffs and the high expense of converting in-person classes to online learning.
Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston urged the president to support tuition assistance for families to enable them to send their children to Catholic schools.
“We need it now,” he said. “It has to be done in a quick way that helps them to pay tuition.”