An East Passyunk Crossing school is seeking to encourage businesses to invest in the future of Catholic institutions.
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.”
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“My family and I are extremely grateful,” eighth-grader Morgan McLaurin said Oct. 24 at Our Lady of Hope Regional Catholic School, 1248 Jackson St. “Without this assistance, I’m not sure what we would have done.”