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BLOCS bullish on future of Catholic schools


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Dave Rowan has had various jobs in his career, including spending seven years as vice president of sales and service for the Eagles.

Rowan is enjoying his current post as CEO of Business Leadership Organized for Catholic Schools, which last week celebrated Catholic Schools Week.

On the job for 3-plus years, Rowan enjoys being part of a team that provides quality, values-based education for students.

“That’s the biggest Super Bowl win for me,” he said.

Dave Rowan

BLOCS, in existence since 1980, is the largest scholarship organization in Pennsylvania, providing more than 17,000 need-based scholarships per year to students from some of the lowest-performing districts to attend tuition-based Catholic and private schools.

Help is available for kids in pre-kindergarten, grade school, high school and special education schools. That includes archdiocesan schools, Independence Mission Schools such as St. Martin of Tours and private Catholic schools such as St. Joe’s Prep.

BLOCS partners with the state’s Educational Improvement Tax Credit and Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit, with Rowan calling them the “best-kept secret in Pennsylvania.” That’s because individuals and companies receive 90 percent credits on their state personal or corporate liability when donating through a scholarship organization such as BLOCS.

Rowan encourages parents and donors to ask schools about financial aid and the necessary applications. Families do not have to be Catholic to qualify. More information is at blocs.org.

“Donors designate to the school. The school disperses BLOCS money,” Rowan said.

Rowan said enrollment has increased in the last three years in Catholic schools in the five-county area, and that Archbishop Nelson Perez and Bishop Michael Fitzgerald – who oversees Catholic education in the archdiocese – are big supporters of archdiocesan schools.

Rowan said he and other BLOCS officials see a continued reinvigoration for Catholic schools.

“We’re very, very bullish,” he said.

Rowan cited the 99 percent graduation rate in Catholic schools, along with the discipline, direction and safe classrooms for students. Employers, he said, seek out Catholic school graduates, who generally score higher on STEM tests.

Rowan thanks BLOCS donors for helping families afford Catholic education. He cited the need to improve the quality of life in Philadelphia, known for its high rates of crime, poverty and incarceration.

“The only way to fix that is education,” he said.

Rowan’s wife, the former Celeste Lyons, is a Torresdale native and 1982 Archbishop Ryan graduate. He credits Ryan president Joe Sanginiti with keeping the school strong financially. He also praised the work being done at Father Judge, particularly its heralded welding program that is leading to high-paying jobs for grads.

Rowan is also happy that EITC and OSTC funding is supported by elected officials of both parties, calling state Rep. Martina White a “champion” and former state Sen. John Sabatina Jr. a staunch proponent. He also has heard new Gov. Josh Shapiro mention support for education choice. ••

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