Skip to comments.Archdiocese of Washington To Close or Merge Four Catholic Schools [No More Vouchers]
Posted on 01/29/2010 8:38:48 PM PST by Steelfish
Archdiocese of Washington To Close or Merge Four Catholic Schools
In 2008, the Archdiocese of Washington gave up control of seven of its inner-city schools that were struggling financially, turning the facilities into secular charter schools. Dozens of teachers and hundreds of students departed; 1,000 new students signed up. Here's a glimpe of life inside one a year-and-a-half later.
By Michael Birnbaum
Saturday, January 30, 2010
Two Washington area Catholic schools will close at the end of the school year, two will merge and another is examining its options, a spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Washington said Friday. The changes come at a tough time for area Catholic schools, which have been suffering from declining enrollment because of the economy and, in the District, the winding-down of the federal voucher program that gives low-income families up to $7,500 to attend private schools.
"We've had some tough years," said Susan Gibbs, an archdiocese spokeswoman. But she said that many officials of the 14 schools that met this fall to discuss their futures emerged with renewed community support.
Holy Redeemer, a 149-student school in Northwest Washington, and 129-student St. Hugh School in Greenbelt will close. St. Mark School in Hyattsville and St. Camillus School in Silver Spring plan to merge and form a school with an internationally focused curriculum called Saint Francis International.
(Excerpt) Read more at washingtonpost.com ...
And yet the DC residents most damaged by Democrat policy and who have had their children thrown back into the cesspit of DC public schools by the Democrats will continue to vote 100% Democrat.
Exactly and then the blacks en masse pull the lever for Obama.
when you give, give, give, give, and demand nothing in return, certain people will take, take, take, take and return nothing to society but complaints that they are not getting enough....pathetic. We now have a government in place that encourages this behavior because it means votes!!
**Two Washington area Catholic schools will close at the end of the school year, two will merge and another is examining its options, a spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Washington said Friday**
Do you think we will see more of this happening as the dimocrat’s taxation plans, etc. go into effect?
Sad to see some of the better educational resources shut down — my opinion. (Not familiar with the quality of these schools.)
The one school that’s in DC is a short walk to the Capitol and is in the shadow of Gonzaga High School (Bill Bennett/Pat Buchanan, noted alum), so I assume the students were given pretty good support, and the boys prepared to move on to Gonzaga. The alternative is something I would not want to contemplate. Can’t imagine what those parents are going to do. People who live in the neighborhoods around the school cannot afford Sidwell-Friends.
Is that where Obama’s girls go to school?
Sidwell-Friends is where the Obama girls go to school (as did Chelsea Clinton) The tuition (it’s a day school) is @ $30K/year per student.
$30 thousand a year?
Divide that by 12 = $2500 a month per child if my math is right?????
Oh, my goodness — that is VERY spendy.
On our taxpayer money — sigh...........
Another factor is that DC has gone big for charter schools, and enough parents are attracted to charters that it’s cutting into private school enrollments.
The three schools in Maryland are unaffected by the closure of the DC tuition voucher program. I’m at least somewhat familiar with all three.
All three are victims, at least in part, of the current economic climate. A lot of folks are out of work, and a fast way to repair the family budget is to get rid of that private school tuition payment. These elementary schools have tuition in the range of $5,000 per year (give or take). If you have a couple of kids in the school, that’s a quick shot in the arm to the household budget of $800 - $1000 per month. That was easy!
Enrollment is down everywhere for our Catholic schools. Part of it is a long-term trend, but part of it is the recession.
The Catholic high school that my son attends typically has about 270 open spots per year and typically over 700 applicants for those spots. Those 700 annual applicants had grown steadily over the years and been stable for some years. Last year, they enrolled a few more than 260 students out of a pool of around 550 applicants. A 20+% drop in applications in one year after years of stable applicant numbers.
The school is still able to fill all its seats, and isn’t providing much more financial aid than in past years. But this past year, it’s certainly true that some kids who wouldn’t have been able to make it, academically, in years past were admitted. And some kids who would have been near or at the top of their class academically whou would have come in years past didn’t come this past year. This makes it difficult to sustain the top-level academic programs of the high school.
My wife is friends with some of the teachers at the Catholic elementary school to which my parish belongs, and is one of the principal feeders to my son’s high school. In years past, around 75% - 80% of the young men in 8th grade had applied to my son’s high school. This year and last, it was closer to 50%. The balance applied to the local magnet high school (which has a pretty decent science and math magnet academic program for the brighter kids who get in).
Regarding the specific schools cited in the article, I’m unfamiliar with Holy Redeemer in Washington, DC.
St. Hugh in Greenbelt has always been a bit of a shoe-string affair, one nasty economic cold away from being out of business. But academically, it has been a strong school providing very good academics and religious education to the middle-income communities in the Greenbelt area. It’s a very sad loss.
I’m a little bit familiar with St. Camilla’s. Good school. In years past, St. Mark’s had been a pretty good school, but has been struggling for the better part of a decade or so because of an indifferent pastor. Someone told me recently that they’d had something like five or six principals in six or seven years, or something like that. Ugh. The new pastor and the new principal (I think they came in about two years ago) tried to turn things around and were getting some traction, but the recession hit them hard, and well, the school is no longer viable. The school compares favorably on academics with the public schools nearby.
Other local Catholic schools are hurting, too. St. Pius X in Bowie, MD has seen enrollment decline by 25% or 30% in the last few years (although the school had expected some decline due to the end of the baby-boomlet of the early 1990s) and is reducing from three classes per grade to two classes per grade. St. Jerome’s in Hyattsville, MD is struggling, although recent reports of the school’s demise were certainly premature. Their strength is an astonishingly good pastor and principal who will likely guide the school through these trying times.
These are all Maryland schools, almost all in Prince George’s County, where the public schools mostly suck. These folks aren’t the beneficiaries of the DC voucher program. Their declining enrollment has been going on for years, and the current economic troubles have only given a bit more of a push down the hill.
As a graduate of the Catholic schools of the Archdiocese of Washington, it saddens me to see that our schools are in trouble for the long-term.
It’s time the Catholic Bishops join forces with rank-and-file parents and demand school choice otherwise as you post confirms the writing is on the wall.
I no longer think that vouchers are a good idea.
In some sense, it’s a matter of justice, and thus, Catholic families have a moral right to vouchers or some other governmental support for Catholic school choice.
But as we’ve seen in DC, they make Catholic schools and families wards of the state, and potentially limit our freedom. What if the Congress rather than say, “No more vouchers,” had said, “Vouchers can continue, so long as you...” fill in the blank. And what if the program, instead of having a couple of thousand kids, had, say, 10,000 or more kids, representing a plurality of kids in DC Catholic schools?
The problem isn’t lack of government support. At most, we Catholics should take little more than perhaps modest tax credits for not using the public schools. We are better off with limited or no government support.
The problem is within the Church.
When I was in elementary school, our parish picked up 80% of the school’s budget. Catholic school was available to EVERY CHILD IN THE PARISH at nominal rates, and for families who couldn’t afford those nominal rates, THE KIDS WENT FOR FREE. The elementary school that I attended had roughly 800 kids. This is one of the schools that I mentioned in my previous post. The school now has something around 300 students. Some of that is demographic, but a significant part of it is that tuition has risen at a multiple of the rate of inflation. What was a couple of hundred dollars in 1970 is now five grand. That’s a 25-fold increase in tuition. My father was a government employee in 1970 and made $14K. The equivalent government employee today doesn’t make $350K.
But when you look in the Archdiocese of Washington, you’ll see that the parochial schools no longer get 80% of their budget from the associated parishes. In fact, Cardinal Hickey forced the parishes and schools to reduce the subsidy to no more than 20% of the school budget.
At the same time, as the numbers of religious who were teaching declined and the number of lay teachers increased, personnel costs skyrocketed.
My own high school had a budget of under $1 million per year when I graduated in 1978. Today, it has a budget of $10 million, even though it has roughly the same number of students. Back then, tuition was about $800 per year. Today, it’s nearly $12K per year. My father was making about $40K in 1978. That’s a 15-fold increase. The equivalent fellow working today isn’t making $600K.
So, while budgets were skyrocketing, parish support was plummeting. And thus, tuitions went up even more than budgets, in percentage terms.
And what was once affordable and available to ALL Catholic families is now available chiefly to upper-middle class Catholic families.
When I was a kid, we were all dropped off by our parents at our high school in Chevies and Fords and Dodges. A few of us could afford cars. Today, when I drop my son off at the same high school, 30+ years later, most of the cars are Lexuses, Mercedes, Cadillacs, etc. I drive one of those, myself. So many kids have their own cars now that they have to have a lottery for parking spaces.
What was once a school for working class and middle-income families is now a school for upper-middle and upper-income families. How many families can freight $12K for one kid? Especially if you have three or four or more.
But the problem isn’t just with bishops like the late Cardinal Hickey. It’s with the laity, too. I sense nothing in my own parish that suggests the average household would like to throw an extra $25 per month to double the subsidy we provide to our regional Catholic elementary school (although just an increase of $25 per month would reduce tuition at the school by 30% per child, or more like 50% per Catholic child).
At least where I live, in my archdiocese, if the people really, really wanted Catholic schools, there are enough folks in the pews where, if everyone pitched in only a modest additional amount, we could dramatically reduce the cost of Catholic education and offer it to many more Catholic students.
I say these things to folks, and folks say, “Yeah, I guess. Nice idea,” but no one really has much of a heart for it.
THAT'S what’s killing Catholic schools.
Of course you make a good case that a primary cause is a lack of financial support from Catholic parishioners. Yet those who have the highest stake are really the parents who send their kids to Catholic schools, not those Catholics who have their kids attend public schools from whom one can expect zero contributions. With affluent Catholic flight to the suburbs, this compounds the problem. As for vouchers, I believe this funding dollar goes direct to the parents who may then chose to use it to attend either public or parochial schools. It does not go direct to the schools and hence the fear of onerous regulations may be overstated.
“Yet those who have the highest stake are really the parents who send their kids to Catholic schools, not those Catholics who have their kids attend public schools from whom one can expect zero contributions.”
I disagree. Although my older son is in a Catholic high school, it is not an archdiocesan school, not connected to any parish, nor run nor directly supervised by the archdiocese in any way, and thus receives no subsidies from Catholics generally (except that some students receive financial aid directly from the archdiocese).
I didn’t send either of my sons to parochial Catholic elementary schools, we homeschooled. I have no direct interest, at least in terms of my own family, in the health of archdiocesan schools.
Nonetheless, I know that good Catholic schools are the most effective way of evangelizing young Catholics to keep them Catholic. And THAT is something very, very close to my heart. As well, Catholic schools consistently provide superior academic education to peer public schools.
I didn't choose parochial Catholic elementary schools for my children, yet I support these schools.
In addition, many people in our parishes no longer have school-age children. I’m not too many years from that status myself, as my younger son begins high school in the autumn. Yet, it isn’t reasonable to think that these people will have no desire to support the Catholic school systems in our dioceses. In fact, as my own sons move through high school, it’s likely that my own support of Catholic schools will increase, as I will no longer have the burdens of Catholic school tuition (although, I guess that in the mid-term, those burdens will be replaced by those of college tuition).
“With affluent Catholic flight to the suburbs, this compounds the problem.”
Three of the four schools mentioned in this article are in the Maryland suburbs. One of them is in Montgomery County, the richest county, per capita, in Maryland.
“As for vouchers, I believe this funding dollar goes direct to the parents who may then chose to use it to attend either public or parochial schools. It does not go direct to the schools and hence the fear of onerous regulations may be overstated.”
What the government gives, it can take away, and this article discusses that very thing. I thank GOD that this voucher program was as limited as it was. If it had been in use by, say, 5,000 kids, or 10,000 kids instead of less than 2,000 kids, that would have devasted the entire Catholic school system inside of Washington, DC. As it is, the loss of vouchers will likely figure in the closing of a couple more Catholic elementary schools in Washington, after a decade of significant losses.
We need to stop looking to the government for the support that we need and look within ourselves and our Catholic communities for that support.