But the bill is not a priority in the House, and with legislators in the midst of annual negotiations on the budget for the fiscal year that starts July?1, an issue as contentious as vouchers is seen as a longshot for now.
In a recent column, Archbishop Charles J. Chaput called the next few weeks “crucial” and exhorted Catholics to press their legislators (“Call them. Write them. E-mail them. Visit them.”) to act on vouchers and increased EITC funding.
This weekend, Chaput’s foot soldiers rallied to the cause.
McCann, who attended St. Monica’s school, urged his fellow parishioners to write, meet with, and e-mail their legislators “until the vote occurs.”
More than 500 students and some parents and teachers spoke at more than 1,000 area Masses this weekend, archdiocese spokeswoman Donna Farrell said.
Referring to the limited time until the legislature’s summer break, Farrell said: “It’s a very narrow window, but we believe the momentum is there.”
In the last year, the archdiocese announced the merger of numerous Catholic schools. Chaput has said that without vouchers and increased EITC funding, more schools will close. With vouchers and additional EITC money, more families could afford to send children to the schools, Farrell said.
Gov. Corbett supports vouchers. The House, however, has not appeared interested in picking up the measure. “I’ve seen no real support on my side of the world,” said State Rep. James Roebuck (D., Phila.), a voucher opponent.
Of the Catholic campaign, he said: “They have the right to advocate for what they want.” He added that he would meet this week in Philadelphia with some Catholic school students who want to discuss the issue.
Roebuck said he did not support taking money away from public schools, didn’t believe vouchers were permitted under the state Constitution, and didn’t see them as addressing the issue of providing a good education for all students.
At St. Monica’s, however, vouchers had supporters.
“Options are good because they make everyone better,” said the Rev. Joseph Kelley, parish pastor.
Joanne Zepp said she was putting two children through Catholic school.
“It’s hard. We sacrifice a lot,” she said.
“We’re taxpayers, too,” said Maria Realdine, who has children in Catholic and public schools. “We feel if they want to allocate more funding for the schools, it’s a good thing.”
Contact staff writer Rita Giordano at 856-779-3841, firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow on Twitter @ritagiordano.