Lipinski Celebrates Catholic Schools Week

Congressman Lipinski delivered the following speech on the House floor in celebration of Catholic Schools Week:

Mr. Speaker, as a proud graduate of St. Symphorosa Grammar School and St. Ignatius College Prep, and as a strong supporter of Catholic education, I am again introducing a resolution to honor Catholic Schools Week and highlight the contributions to our nation made by America's Catholic schools. Unfortunately, changes in House rules will likely prohibit this resolution from being brought to the floor, so I want to talk about it tonight.

Since 1974, the National Catholic Educational Association and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops have provided exemplary leadership in conceptualizing and organizing Catholic Schools Week. This year it is celebrated from January 30th thru February 5th.  The theme, "Catholic Schools - A+ for America," celebrates the fact that Catholic schools are an added value, "a plus," for our nation.

By always emphasizing the necessity of a well-rounded educational experience and instilling the values of giving back to the community and helping others, America's Catholic schools produce graduates that have the skills and strength of character needed by our businesses, governments, and communities. Nearly 95 percent of Catholic schools have a service program, and in 2009 their students contributed about half a million hours of service to their communities and parishes. My own desire to serve was fostered by dedicated teachers throughout my formative years at Catholic schools.

Today, over 2.1 million elementary and secondary students are enrolled in over 7,000 Catholic schools. Catholic school students, on average, surpass other students in math, science, and reading in the three grade levels tested by the NAEP test. The graduation rate for Catholic high school students is 99%, and 97% of Catholic high school graduates go on to college or technical schools. As we continually hear disturbing reports about our national test scores, these statistics are truly remarkable, and should be commended.

Catholic schools are known for embracing students from all walks of life and are highly effective in providing educational opportunities for minority students and disadvantaged youth. Almost fifteen percent of students in Catholic schools are not Catholic. Over the past 30 years, the percentage of minority students enrolled in Catholic schools has more than doubled. Despite exceptional results, the success of Catholic schools does not depend on selectivity, as they accept nine out of every 10 students who apply.

In addition to producing well-educated students, Catholic schools save American taxpayers billions of dollars every year by lowering the number of students in already overburdened public schools. In fact, it is estimated that taxpayers save over $1 billion from students attending Catholic schools in the Chicago area alone and approximately $20 billion nationwide. The importance of these savings is undeniable to American taxpayers, especially now, while many state and local governments are struggling with budget gaps.

I was born and raised and live in the Chicago Archdiocese, which still has one of the most successful school systems in the country. More than 93,000 students attend 258 schools. In my district alone, there are seven Catholic high schools and approximately 50 grammar schools, including one of the best in my home parish -- St. John of the Cross in Western Springs.

My Catholic education in Chicago gave me the knowledge, discipline, desire to serve, and love of learning that enabled me to earn my doctorate and become a teacher before being elected to Congress. In recognizing Catholic Schools Week, we pay a special tribute to dedicated teachers and administrators who sacrifice so much, in most cases working for less than they could earn elsewhere. Many of my favorite memories are of teachers, including many nuns, who taught me the values of faith and service. Throughout the United States, millions of others have similar memories of their dedicated sisters, priests, and lay teachers who gave their hearts and souls to touch the lives of their students.

Mr. Speaker, next week I look forward to attending Catholic Schools Week events in my district, to deliver the praise, support, and gratitude they deserve. I encourage my colleagues to do the same.

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