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Ohio bishops voice dismay over state budget cuts

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Wednesday, August 5, 2009

ARCHDIOCESE — Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk, speaking on behalf of Ohio’s Catholic bishops, has issued a letter voicing dismay with specific cuts in the state budget and disappointment with a political process that disregarded the concerns of many members of the General Assembly.

In a letter sent to Governor Strickland and each member of the Ohio General Assembly on July 27, the bishops expressed strong concern over cuts impacting the elderly, mentally ill, Catholic hospitals and students in Catholic schools. In a prior letter sent to elected state officials, the bishops specifically addressed the negative impact of budget cuts on Ohio’s hospitals and nursing homes.

According to Carolyn Jurkowitz, executive director of the Catholic Conference, the bishops gave extra attention in their more recent letter to cuts totaling $59M in services to Catholic school students and administrative cost reimbursement to Catholic schools.

“We have the largest number of chartered nonpublic schools in Ohio, and
therefore a major responsibility to promote fair and equitable treatment of all students, no matter where they attend school,” Jurkowitz explained.

The bishops wrote: “For over 25 years, state budgets treated students attending public and chartered nonpublic schools equitably. As state funding for public schools increased or decreased, line items benefiting students in chartered nonpublic schools increased or decreased proportionately. In HB1, this did not happen. The final budget reduced line items supporting students in chartered nonpublic schools by 15 percent from the House and Senate-passed versions of the budget bill… while state support for students in public schools [was] reduced by less than one percent and then bolstered with federal stimulus money. The new budget suggests that Catholic taxpayers and the children we serve will be the last to receive any consideration and the first to be cut.”

The bishops note: “Many legislators told us that they disagreed with the cuts made in benefits for students in Catholic schools, and with the lack of opportunity to voice their concerns or influence the conference committee process.”

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