Transcript of Remarks of Thomas Carroll, Archdiocese of Boston Superintendent of Schools, During GOP Roundtable on Biden Stimulus Bill

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Editor’s Note:  Thomas Carroll, superintendent of schools for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, appeared Wednesday, December 1, 2021 before a roundtable convened by Republicans in the United States Senate in Washington D.C. to discuss an aspect of President Joe Biden’s proposed federal stimulus bill, called the Build Back Better Act.

Some religious school officials say that the bill as written would likely force them to withdraw from providing child care and prekindergarten education, because getting access to federal funds would require them to go against their religious beliefs.  As currently written, the bill requires that providers receiving federal funds comply with federal non-discrimination rules (known as Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972), which prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex, and include sexual orientation and gender identity in the official definition of sex.

Carroll oversees 101 Catholic schools in Suffolk County, Essex County, Middlesex County, Norfolk County, and Plymouth County in Massachusetts that serve about 32,500 students. If it were a public school district, the archdiocese of Boston school system would be the second largest in the state, behind the city of Boston school district.

On Wednesday, Carroll spoke for 4 minutes 52 seconds early in the roundtable discussion. He later answered questions from senators.  During his remarks he referred to three Republican U.S. senators who were present:  Mitt Romney (of Utah, and a former governor of Massachusetts); Tim Scott of South Carolina; and Richard Burr of North Carolina, who chaired the roundtable discussion.

A transcript of all of Carroll’s remarks is below.

Carroll’s first presentation goes from 44:27 to 49:19 of this YouTube video of the roundtable:


Thomas Carroll:  Thank you, Senator, for convening this and giving us all the opportunity to give you kind of a report from the field.

The goal of the bill is to expand access to child care and to preschool.  But it actually will have the opposite effect. And so, we run a hundred and one schools, thirty-two thousand kids, three thousand teachers, twelve hundred staff.  Pretty big enterprise.  And about six thousand of those kids are in age 5 and below, all the way down to 9 weeks.

Massachusetts, as the former governor of Massachusetts knows, has a program that is neutral as to religion.  Whether it’s a public school, a public charter school, a private school – including religious institutions — there’s no bias for or against religion. And it’s been very successful.  It’s a model that the federal government should look at.  And it’s focused on directing money to parents, and letting the parents decide which option that they want to go with, out of all the options that are arrayed.

We have in Massachusetts 75 percent of the parents — the available parents in households — work. So that’s why child care and early childhood education – pre-K – is really, really important. So the problem with the bill is a really simple one.  I think as designed it will be a complete flop.  And the reason is, as – I keep thinking it’s “Chairman Burr,” but as Senator Burr said – I always think your first name is “Chairman” – but, as Senator Burr said, fifty-two percent of the providers in the country, the seats in the country, are provided by religious institutions.  And, we have a very big [word unclear], among the biggest nonprofits in Massachusetts.

We not only provide education, but we do immigration services, soup kitchens, homeless services. So organizations like ours and other religions around the country have deep, deep connections in all the communities in which we reside. And we have deep relationship with parents. And so it’s very important that people that have the boots on the ground, in a lot of different ways, are able to participate in the bill.

As indicated, for three decades, under multiple presidents, with both houses flip-flopping back and forth between the parties, there’s been a bipartisan consensus to provide religious freedom protections within all the legislation for child care and for pre-K, to make sure that religious providers are able to participate.

Without those protections, which are stripped out in the House bill, you’re going to lose potentially fifty-two percent of the providers in the country.

And Senator Scott, you know, is a big champion of school choice, as many of you are. It’s very important that we have a set of pluralistic options that are religious, not religious – so that parents also, they can make the decision.

To talk about what Senator Romney indicated, it’s really:  we have to decide who’s going to raise the children, what values are imparted to the children. That’s a very intimate decision for a parent to make. And what this bill is doing is taking a whole array of options right off the table, that they will not be able to accept.

It also puts religious institutions – think of what happened with the Little Sisters of the Poor, for instance, in the context of Obamacare – but it’s putting religious institutions in a position in which, if they want to get the money, or to accept money that goes to parents, they have to enter a Faustian bargain in which they agree to basically give up their faith. In the Catholic Church, we have 2,000 years of Church teaching. We’re not giving it up to get federal money for child care or pre-K.

And so, we had a similar situation with adoption. We had to walk away from providing adoption services.

So, none of the people in the room that represent all the different faiths that are involved in the child care and pre-K market can be put in the decision to do this.

People always think of the First Amendment of respecting the freedom of the press and freedom of speech. But it also includes the provision for free exercise of religion. And so parents need to be able to freely exercise their own personal faith, and too, how they want those values imparted to their children is ultimately something that they should have the liberty to do.  And that’s being stripped away from this bill.

So whether people agree with the Catholic Church or not doesn’t really matter. But as a practical sense, people all across the country are going to have options snatched away from them. And instead of having lots and lots of parent options, we’re going to have a narrowing of options, rather than an expansion of access.

My wife’s a preschool teacher. I know personally what the investment in those early years means for children. So it’s really important that we get this right.

And I agree:  As we’ve done in Massachusetts, we’ve had a series of governors, whether Republican or Democrat, that have acted in a bipartisan way, when it comes to educational issues. And that should be a model for what’s going on here. And unfortunately it’s not.

Thank you.


About 26 minutes later, U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) asked the panelists how caps on revenue to providers written into the proposed bill would hurt the ability of providers’ “ability to continue to provide child care while also maintaining those employees.”

Carroll was the third panelist to respond (at 1:26:20 of the video):


Thomas Carroll:  In our case, we don’t even get to the question about the way the program is designed if the thirty-year policy of allowing religious institutions to be religious institutions is not fixed.

And that could be fixed very simply by repealing the federal financial assistance language that appears in multiple places.


About five minutes later, U.S. Senator Richard Burr (R-North Carolina) quoted an analyst who wrote that the under the wage and subsidy mandates in the bill “unsubsidized parents will take a beating.” Burr asked panelists to respond.

Carroll went first (at 1:31:26 of the YouTube video):


Thomas Carroll:  I think an apt historical analogy is “Nobody will lose their health care.”

And so, I think they’re not only saying “Nobody will lose their child care, or their preschool” –

But people –

They’re claiming they’re going to expand options, but in reality, because fifty-two percent of the market could end up being left out, people are going to lose their child care, and people are going to lose their preschool.


U.S. Senator Richard Burr:  And fifty-two percent just being the religious base.


Thomas Carroll:  Just the religious providers.


U.S. Senator Richard Burr:  Yeah.


Thomas Carroll:  So, it’s, it’s worse than the status quo.  Because for a lot of families, they’re expecting something that they already have.

And people care deeply who their doctor is. But they also care very deeply who they put their young children with all week long.  And that’s a very personal, intimate thing for parents.  And I think people are –

Because this is in the context of a gigantic bill, I think there’s very little scrutiny, absent this roundtable, about what’s a very major change that is going to be a shock to parents all across the country when it plays out.


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