October 2019 | Number 448
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and Speaker Mike Turzai met with Pennsylvania State CAPE leaders Merle Skinner, Sean McAleer and others in Harrisburg, PA. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Department of Education.
Secretary DeVos Participates in Roundtable with PA CAPE
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos visited Harrisburg Catholic Elementary School in Harrisburg, PA on September 19 for a roundtable discussion moderated by Sean McAleer of the Pennsylvania CAPE. The secretary accepted the invitation to visit from Representative Mike Turzai, Speaker of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. Secretary DeVos discussed her proposed Education Freedom Scholarships legislation that has been introduced in Congress, while Speaker Turzai described his legislation that would allow public school students in the Harrisburg School District, which has been placed into state receivership, to attend private schools through a scholarship.

Participating in the roundtable were two children who have benefited from Pennsylvania’s Educational Improvement Tax Credit Program (EITC) and their mother, as well as key legislators, Catholic school officials, and Pennsylvania State CAPE leaders Merle Skinner, Marie Conti, Arielle Franklin-Morris, and David Hegedus.

Earlier in the year, Pennsylvania’s Governor Tom Wolf vetoed a dramatic expansion of the EITC, however a more modest increase in the tax credits was ultimately approved as a part of the budget process.
DeVos Back-to-School Tour Launched at Private School in Milwaukee
Secretary DeVos kicked off her back 2019 Back-to-School Tour in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, home of the nation’s oldest school choice program: the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (MPCP), established in 1990. The secretary delivered remarks at St. Marcus Lutheran School, which serves 900 predominantly minority students, most of whom benefit from the MPCP.
CAPE Signs Amicus Brief on Historic Blaine Case
As faithful readers of Outlook know, last year the Montana Supreme Court became the first state supreme court in the country to strike down a tax credit scholarship program. It did so on the grounds of Montana’s Blaine Amendment, ruling that because some families receiving scholarships would use them to send their children to religious schools, the entire program needed to be scrapped.

That decision has been appealed to the US Supreme Court, which has agreed to hear the case. In September, CAPE agreed to sign onto an amicus brief arguing that the Montana Supreme Court’s decision violated the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause by singling out religious schools for adverse treatment.

The case, Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, has implications far beyond a single state program. Many private school advocates are hoping that the Supreme Court will take the opportunity to strike down Blaine Amendments nationwide. This is one to watch.
Few Parents Using 529s for K-12
According to a piece in USA Today, “Few parents are using 529 savings plan for their school-aged children’s tuition more than a year after the Trump administration first allowed the tax-advantaged funds to go to K-12 private education.” The article observes that “In Virginia, which has the largest 529 plan by participation, only a fraction of 1% of the dollars distributed in the previous school year went to private or parochial school tuition.”

“The lack of participation doesn’t necessarily reflect disinterest, administrators say, but rather an unawareness by the American public of the change in regulation.” Indeed. Time to raise awareness!
Name the Mars Rover!
K-12 students have the opportunity to name NASA’s next Mars rover. According to the Department of Education, “Entries must include a proposed name for the rover and a short essay of 150 words or less explaining the reasons for the name. NASA will select 156 state winners (one from each state and age group), before narrowing down to the top 9 entries that will be part of a public poll. The grand prize winner who will name the rover will be selected and announced in spring of 2020.”

The deadline is November 1. Students can sign up and submit their entries for the competition at  https://www.futureengineers.org/nametherover.
USDE Announces Improvements to FAFSA App
The Department of Education has added new features to the online Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form and the myStudentAid mobile app. For more information, see the release from USDE.
New Tax Law's Effect on Giving
On September 19, the Congressional Research Service issued a report titled “Tax Issues Relating to Charitable Contributions and Organizations.” Examining the effects of the 2017 Tax Cut and Jobs Act, the report says the following: "Comparing giving levels in 2017 and 2018 provides some insight into the possible impacts of the 2017 tax revision on charitable giving and the charitable sector. Compared to 2017, 2018 contributions from individuals and bequests declined as a percentage of GDP (by 6% and 5%, respectively), while corporate contributions were virtually unchanged and foundation contributions rose by 2%. In 2017, an estimated 80% of individual contributions benefited from the tax subsidy for itemized deductions. Surveying the literature can also provide some insight regarding the effect of tax subsidies on charitable giving. Based on statistical estimates of the responsiveness of individual giving to tax subsidies, a decrease in individual giving of around 3% to 4% might be expected from the 2017 tax revision.” Read the full report here.
Federal Report: Private Schools Safer, Kinder, More Satisfying
The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) is the primary federal agency responsible for collecting, analyzing, and reporting data related to education in the United States. According to a recently released NCES survey, “In 2017, a higher percentage of public school students ages 12–18 than of private school students in the same age group reported knowing of a gang presence at school (9 vs. 2 percent), seeing hate-related graffiti at school (25 vs. 6 percent), and being called hate-related words at school (7 vs. 4 percent) during the school year.” Moreover, “Families of students in private schools largely reported that they were very satisfied with their schools (77 percent of students), with families of 60 percent of students who chose their public school and 54 percent of students assigned to their public school reporting the same.”  See all of the findings here.
Blue Ribbon Schools Named
Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has announced the names of the schools identified by the U.S. Department of Education as the National Blue Ribbon Schools for 2019.

Fifty private schools were among the awardees this year. Each state's commissioner of education nominates public schools for the award, and CAPE nominates private schools. All winning schools will be honored at an awards ceremony November 14-15, 2019 in Washington, DC. For more information, visit the CAPE website .


District of Columbia












New York



South Dakota




From the Director
The “A” in CAPE is for “American,” so we at Outlook tend to report on what’s happening in the good ole US of A. However, some news from the United Kingdom very much caught our attention: it seems that Britain's Labor Party passed a motion at its annual conference calling for the abolition of private schools. The motion says that “the ongoing existence of private schools is incompatible with Labour’s pledge to promote social justice.” According to The Independent , “the party would include in its next manifesto ‘a commitment to integrate all private schools into the state sector.’” If that’s not enough, “private schools’ property, land and other assets will be seized and ‘redistributed democratically and fairly across the country’s educational institutions.’” Here’s hoping that what happens in the UK stays in the UK, and that it doesn’t happen there at all...

This past July, the State CAPE Network held its annual Summer Institute in Jackson, MS. Tim Keller with the Institute for Justice gave a fine presentation on the Montana Blaine Amendment case now before the US Supreme Court. The State CAPE leaders also appreciated hearing from Mississippi’s ombudsman, Bryan Lieb. Meanwhile, in September, the CAPE Board gathered in Washington, DC for their fall meeting. CAPE Board members Donna Orem and Katie Wiens made very thoughtful presentations on the adjustments private school leaders need to make in a rapidly changing environment, and on moral formation in independent schools, respectively. Additionally, Ray Pennings with Cardus laid out the case for the contributions that private schools make to the common good. These and other sessions made for an informative and productive time...

You may have noticed that Outlook has undergone something of a change. We hope that the new version of the newsletter is more user friendly. There will undoubtedly be some growing pains accompanying the changes as we continue to experiment with the new version, but we’ll do our best to work out the kinks and maintain the high standard of excellence that Outlook readers have come to expect and demand lo these many years.
Private Education: Good for Students, Good for Families, Good for America
Affiliated State Organizations a coalition of national associations serving private schools K-12

Executive Director:
Michael Schuttloffel

Outlook is published monthly (September to June) by CAPE.
ISSN 0271-145

1300 Pennsylvania Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20004
Tel: 844-883-CAPE

Michael Schuttloffel
Executive Director
Phone: 844-883-CAPE