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Catholic Schools Week

The Chair recognizes the gentleman from Illinois (Mr. Lipinski) for 5 minutes.

Rep. Daniel Lipinski

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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 have again this year introduced a resolution in honor of Catholic Schools Week to highlight the contributions Catholic schools make, not only to the students who attend them, but to our entire Nation.

Since 1974, the National Catholic Educational Association and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops have provided leadership in planning and organizing Catholic Schools Week. This year, it is celebrated from January 29 through February 5. The theme, ``Faith, Academics, Service,'' celebrates the broad educational experience Catholic school students receive. Catholic school students are not only focused on academic excellence but also on enriching the spiritual character and moral development of young Americans.

America's Catholic schools produce graduates with the skills and integrity needed by our businesses, governments, and communities, emphasizing a well-rounded education and instilling the values of giving back to the community and helping others. Nearly every Catholic school has a community service program, and their students volunteer half-a-million hours every year to their parishes and communities. My own decision to pursue a career in teaching and then in public service was fostered in part by the dedicated teachers throughout my years in Catholic schools.

Today, over 2 million elementary and secondary students are enrolled in nearly 7,000 Catholic schools, where these students typically excel. They surpass their peers in math, science, reading, history, and geography in NAEP tests. The graduation rate for Catholic high school students is 99 percent, and 85 percent of the graduates of these schools attend a 4-year college. As we continue to hear disturbing reports about our national test scores, these statistics are truly remarkable and should be commended.

Notably, the success of Catholic schools does not depend on selectivity. These academic achievements are realized by students from all walks of life. Catholic schools accept 9 out of every 10 students who apply, and are highly effective in providing a quality education to students from every socioeconomic group, especially disadvantaged youths in underserved urban communities. Over the past 30 years, the percentage of minority students enrolled in Catholic schools has more than doubled, and today they constitute almost one-third of all Catholic school students. In times of economic hardship, Catholic schools provide an affordable alternative to other forms of private education.

In addition to producing well-rounded students, Catholic schools save taxpayers billions of dollars each year by lowering the number of students in already overburdened public schools. 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 as we in Congress and as lawmakers across the country struggle with deficits.

I was born and raised and live in the Chicago Archdiocese, home to one of the most successful Catholic school systems in the Nation, and my parish school at St. John of the Cross has one of the best schools in the archdiocese. Right next-door, the Joliet Diocese also has a thriving Catholic school system. The focus of this year's Catholic Schools Week, ``Faith, Academics, Service,'' reflects my own Catholic education. The knowledge, discipline, desire to serve, and love of learning it instilled in me enabled me to earn my doctorate and to 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. I have many fond memories of my teachers, including those of many nuns, who taught me the value of faith, learning, and service. Throughout the United States, millions of others have similar memories of dedicated sisters, priests, and lay teachers who gave their hearts and souls to their students.

This week, I had the honor of celebrating Catholic Schools Week at a number of schools, including St. Andrew School in Romeoville, Everest Academy in Lemont, St. Michael School in Orland Park, Cardinal Joseph Bernadine School in Orland Hills, and my alma mater, St. Symphorosa in Chicago. I also joined St. Linus School in Oak Lawn in celebrating, not only Catholic Schools Week, but also the school's prestigious Blue Ribbon award.

Mr. Speaker, I ask my colleagues to join me in supporting the outstanding education Catholic schools provide to Americans across the country as we celebrate Catholic Schools Week