Neumann-Goretti leads tax-credit initiative

An East Passyunk Crossing school is seeking to encourage businesses to invest in the future of Catholic institutions.

By Joseph Myers
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 10 | Posted Nov. 8, 2012

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Linda McBride’s 10th grade mathematics class members continued their numeric journey Monday.

Photo by Greg Bezanis

With 12 years of parochial schooling having aided his character’s formation, John Murawski undoubtedly cherishes Catholic education. Through an additional four years as president of Ss. Neumann-Goretti High School, 1736 S. 10th St., the Pennsport figure has ventured to keep South Philly’s neighborhoods teeming with youths eager to unite intellectual pursuits and religious beliefs.

He joined equally committed community leaders Nov. 1 at Fishtown’s SugarHouse Casino to discuss the Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit program, through which businesses can sustain Catholic schools and enable public institution pupils to ponder new sites.

“People often wonder what becomes of their taxes,” the resident of the 100 block of McKean Street said Friday at his East Passyunk Crossing facility. “This will give business owners a direct say in where their money goes.”

The state legislature created the initiative in August, alloting $50 million to assist learners at low-performing locations, which officials define as spots ranking in the bottom 15 percent of elementary and secondary public sites based on math and reading scores on the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment. The commonwealth lists 11 South Philly schools among the struggling venues, so Murawski is striving to add students to Neumann-Goretti while his peers are hoping to land enrollees for the vicinity’s six parochial elementary institutions.

“We do not suffer from a lack of interest,” Murawski said of courting clans. “The roughest part is the disconnect that occurs when tuition comes up.”

The 34-year-old graduated from St. John Neumann High School, formerly 2600 Moore St., which merged with St. Maria Goretti High School in 2004. Administrators and teachers welcomed 1,250 learners that year, but enrollment has dipped to 560, with tuition hitting $6,300 as a result of the exodus. Though not in danger of closing, his site could use more bodies to fend off more increases, so he has spent the last two months lauding the tax credit program, which allows businesses to redirect up to $400,000 in state taxes to Business Leadership Organized for Catholic Schools. Once endowed with the funds, the 32-year-old Radnor-based company can provide scholarships to youngsters who wish to acquire a Catholic education yet who belong to families who might find the price tags too daunting. Endowments could also go to parochial elementary students whose guardians fear costs will lead them to remove their children from the Archdiocesan system.

In addition to Neumann-Goretti’s hefty expense, households seeking elementary instruction must pay an average of $2,581 for one child, Kenneth Gavin, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s associate director of communications, said. Through Business Leadership Organized for Catholic Schools, which sent director of development Bill O’Brien to last week’s event, the tax credit program could, according to a release, “fill thousands of high quality open seats in our Catholic schools right now” by granting elementary and high schools students up to $8,500 in tuition assistance and special education learners up to $15,000 in aid.

“There is a sense of urgency because so many establishments will be looking to help schools,” Murawski, who has made outreach to more than 100 businesses, said. “Therefore, it will literally pay to be among the first to participate.”

The administrator, whose school has received $30,000 annually from Business Leadership Organized for Catholic Schools, is pursuing proprietors and corporations as part of a directive from The Faith in the Future Foundation, which assumed leadership and operational management of the archdiocese’s 17 high schools and four special education institutions Sept. 1. That move followed a tumultuous year of consolidations and closings that proved the need for greater financial intervention. The tax-credit brainchild permits entities to acquire a 75 percent tax credit for a one-year commitment and a 90-percent boon when making a two-year undertaking, with their decision not affecting their budget. Five taxes help them to qualify and can help them to up their total credit figure to $800,000 through the commonwealth’s Educational Improvement Tax Credit campaign, which aided Neumann-Goretti and five other local schools with a $98,416 gift Oct. 24 at Our Lady of Hope Regional Catholic School, 1248 Jackson St.

“When one considers that the School District of Philadelphia has said it must close schools, the next few years will involve many transitions,” O’Brien said. “Because of that forecast, BLOCS is looking to offer options to families, and we feel we have wonderful pitches to make.”

His employer supports the aforementioned Faith in the Future locations and the Archdiocese’s 123 elementary sites. He noted 3,500 enrollees will receive $3.5 million in aid this school year, with $4 million already set aside for next fall. As Archbishop Charles Chaput in April united with charter school leaders, district officials, Mayor Michael Nutter, the Pennsylvania Department of Education and the School Reform Commission to form the Philadelphia Great Schools Compact, which strives to increase the city’s number of high-performing schools through talks on best practices, innovation and monetary monitoring, he hopes the once abundant Catholic school system can find itself reinvigorated, especially Neumann-Goretti.

“It is a great school in a neighborhood that needs a great site,” O’Brien said. “If we could come to funnel displaced students into Neumann-Goretti, we would feel as if we have done a great service to area families.”

That O’Brien thinks that way and has scheduled a Monday meeting with the Archdiocese’s elementary school principals to discuss the program delights 1st District Councilman Mark Squilla, who, along with Councilman-at-Large James Kenney, represented the City last week, interacting with nearly two dozen business figures who learned how they can sustain South Philly’s parochial identity. Though generated funds will not make a full impact until next school year, the 1980 St. John Neumann graduate hopes the spirit will move people to contribute now.

“My Catholic education helped to mold me,” the resident of Front Street and Snyder Avenue said. “BLOCS is going to make it so feasible for local children to experience the same benefits, and businesses will enjoy knowing their actions will be major parts of that growth.”

A manager at Conestoga Bank, 2444 S. Broad St., and mother to Neumann-Goretti sophomore Nicole Fitzpatrick, Jackie Fitzpatrick gladly responded to Murawski’s October outreach to participate. The resident of the 2400 block of South Fourth Street is waiting to hear if her establishment will receive permission to contribute from its corporate net income tax, with hopes her teenager’s site and others will receive philanthropy.

“It’s for a great cause,” she said. “Neumann-Goretti and other Catholic schools offer a wonderful education and great activities.”


Contact Staff Writer Joseph Myers at or ext. 124.

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Comments 1 - 10 of 10
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1. Gloria Endres said... on Nov 8, 2012 at 09:05AM

“I have several comments/questions. First of all, the tuition tax credit act is actually a back door voucher program. They have to do it this way, because the state constitution strictly forbids using tax money to fund religious schools.

Surely, not every student can be awarded tuition assistance. How will they decide who gets the money? Means? Academics? Those who do not qualify will obviously have to pay full tuition.

Since this is essentially awarding tax money to private schools, will their students in those schools have to take the state assessment tests, the same as public school students? How will that affect the religious curriculum?

Since these schools are accepting taxpayer money, will the state insist that their teachers pass the same qualifying exams and course work that is required of public school teachers?

Mixing public money with private education has to transform the private school into a hybrid. The question is what must be compromised to accomplish that”

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2. Bill O'Brien said... on Nov 8, 2012 at 10:29AM

“Thanks for your comments and questions. First you are correct, not every family can receive funding unless we engage businesses to support the effort through this program. Students essentially submit a "fiinancial aid" application to BLOCS. BLOCS then must "qualify" the students based on criteria set by the state of PA and for OSTC these students must live within the boundary of one of the 15% of lowest performing schools in the state or within a "financially distressed" school district such as Phialdelphia.

Academics and other aspects play no part in the decision, it is simply do we have funding and does the familiy demonstrate need.

As far as meeting state academic requirements, all of our schools are required to provide the state mandated curriculum requirements and our schools routinely meet those with no issues. While currenly our schools take a national standardized test, the results when converted to compare to the state tests, are generally on par or better.

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3. Bill O'Brien said... on Nov 8, 2012 at 10:36AM

“Families who choose Catholic schools as an alternative to their public school are required to take religious classes but they are not required to convert or change their religious beliefs. But we believe the faith based component of our schools is what makes our schools a great alternative.

Finally, Catholic schools, public schools and charter schools in the Philadelphia region all recently signed "The Great Schools Compact". This compact is a committment by all three communities to work together to keep good schools alive in the city. Visit and the Philadelphia School Partnership website to find out more about how all of our schools are working to improve education for children in Philadelphia!

It is not about public versus private, Catholic or has to be about creating great choices and making them affordable to the children who so desperately need a solid education to help them succeed in life!

I hope that helps!”

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4. Gloria Endres said... on Nov 8, 2012 at 12:32PM

“Thanks, Bill. I have heard most of these arguments before. It sounds very persuasive to say that we are all in this together and want to make all schools "great". But as you already know, education funding is always an issue.

What this article does not say is that the money allocated to the tuition tax credit program amounts to over $100 million and climbing. The more businesses that attach themselves to the plan, the more tax money will be diverted to private education. That money will be subtracted from the general education fund for public education.

Otherwise, we would be asking taxpayers to fund two or maybe three tiers of education. How will that be possible under the present education spending formula in Pennsylvania? Right now, Pennsylvania only supplies about a third of the budget for local school districts. The rest comes from local taxes. If more of the money is siphoned to private schools, that can only mean that the public schools will receive even less.”

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5. Gloria Endres said... on Nov 8, 2012 at 12:34PM

“I submitted a response but do not see it.”

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6. Clifford Dillion said... on Nov 8, 2012 at 12:41PM

Philadelphia's public education system is a wreck. The loss of revenue that you fear is not going to result from people's investment in Catholic education. The Great Schools Compact would never let that happen. If families at failing schools choose thriving Catholic schools, are you going to blame the heads of household for their decisions?”

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7. Clifford Dillion said... on Nov 8, 2012 at 12:42PM

Researching the Great Schools Compact should help you to feel warm and fuzzy.”

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8. Gloria Endres said... on Nov 8, 2012 at 01:27PM

“Bill, I am still trying to answer your comment.”

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9. Gloria Endres said... on Nov 8, 2012 at 02:50PM

“Well, glad to see my comment finally made it.

Clifford, you have much more faith in the Great Schools Contract than I do.The Great Schools Partnership is basically run by a board of venture capitalists. Companies that participate can obtain a write-off as high as $400K. There is high motivation to 'sell' this program to the public that foots the bill.

Here is the Inquirer report that confirms the figures and quotes an opponent who is a member of the Haverford School Board.

"The program, he said, diverts 'money that should have been going into the general fund for use in the state budget" and "uses these tax dollars to fund private and religious schools.'"

Calling the Philadelpha schools "a wreck" while scheming to siphon basic funding from them is highly disingenguous.

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10. Gloria Endres said... on Nov 8, 2012 at 02:59PM

“If anyone would take the time to read Dan Hardy's article from the Inquirer, it is plain that the first tuition checks go to families of poor children from areas of so called "failing" schools. That may help some parochial schools to fill up their enrollment, but how does that help the Catholic children already enrolled and whose parents do not quality for the help?

The only way for a presently enrolled Catholic student to be eligible is for no one else to take the scholarship first. Read the law. It is all there.

This is a great tax break for corporations and bait and switch for parents of Catholic School students already enrolled and paying full tuition.


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