President Ronald Reagan delighted administrators of the nation’s Catholic elementary and secondary schools last week by promising to initiate tuition tax-credit legislation “later in the 97th Congress.”
In a telegram to the Chief Administrators of Catholic Education (cace) holding their annual meeting here, Mr. Reagan reiterated the promise he made in person to cace last October as a candidate for president.
“I want to take this occasion,” the President said in the telegram, “to reassure you, as well as other sectors of the nonpublic school community, that I remain as strongly committed to tuition tax credits now as when I spoke to you in Cincinnati.”
Mr. Reagan said, however, that he did not want to act immediately on the issue because of “difficult budget pressures.” He also warned that “an acceptable bill will have to be phased in gradually.”
The President’s message was greeted with applause by the more than 500 cace members attending the meeting.
“I think all of us should be very pleased with President Reagan’s telegram,” said the Reverend John P. Hanley, cace president and superintendent of education for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Milwaukee, who read the President’s message to the group.
Msgr. Francis X. Barrett, cace executive®MDNM¯ director, interpreted Mr. Reagan’s promise to “initiate” action “later in the 97th Congress” to mean that legislation will be ready for a vote before Congress adjourns in September or October of next year--before the November elections.
“I expect President Reagan to keep his promise,” Msgr. Barrett said. “One thing that distinguishes President Reagan’s Administration is his adherence to his campaign promises. He says he’ll do something, and he does it.”
The President, he added, “is philosophically committed to the tuition tax credit. I don’t believe it is a political gambit.”
Msgr. Barrett said he believes the3tax credit has “a good chance of passing. It almost passed last year despite a very hostile President,’' he pointed out.
If tuition tax credits become law, Msgr. Barret said, Catholic schools will be affected only slightly. “But, they will provide considerable help to lower-middle-class parents who find parochial schools too expensive because of tuition (now averaging about $600 a year at the secondary level) and the high taxes they must pay for public schools.”
cace members passed a resolution of support for the tuition tax-credit campaign. Noting that the issue is at “a critical crossroads,” the resolution called upon all cace6members “to urge a continuing campaign among parents, teachers, and administrators to complement the President and those members of Congress who are supporting tuition tax-credit legislation and to encourage the support of all members of congress towards a clear and decisive action toward the enactment of tuition tax-credit legislation by the 97th Congress.”
When asked about the voucher concept of giving parents a set amount of money and letting them buy the education they want for their children, Msgr. Barrett said “it sounds like the ideal American way for everybody. But,” he added, “it seems to be long way off.”
A version of this article appeared in the October 26, 1981 edition of Education Week as Reagan Pledges He Will Support Tax-Credit Bill