Skip to comments.The Plan to Save Catholic Schools: CARDINAL TIMOTHY M. DOLAN
Posted on 02/08/2013 2:55:56 PM PST by xzins
It has been a somewhat somber Catholic Schools Week for me, since in the Archdiocese of New York we recently announced that 24 of our schools will be closing at the end of this academic year.
This is Catholic Schools Week, when dioceses across the country celebrate the great gifts that are our Catholic schools. It has been a somewhat somber Catholic Schools Week for me, since in the Archdiocese of New York we recently announced that 24 of our schools will be closing at the end of this academic year. According to the National Catholic Education Association, the closings will join a national trend that has seen Catholic-school enrollment in the U.S. decline by 23.4% since 2000, a loss of 621,583 students.
It is sometimes hard to understand why enrollment has dropped. After all, even the enemies of Catholic education and, sadly, there are some who wish our schools would disappear altogether grudgingly admit that Catholic schools are unparalleled in providing a first-rate education that also emphasizes character and virtue.
I have heard from many leaders in business and finance that when a graduate from Catholic elementary and secondary schools applies for an entry-level position in their companies, the employer can be confident that the applicant will have the necessary skills to do the job. Joseph Viteritti, a professor of public policy at Hunter College in New York who specializes in education policy, recently said, "If you're serious about education reform, you have to pay attention to what Catholic schools are doing. The fact of the matter is that they've been educating urban kids better than they're being educated elsewhere."
The evidence is not just anecdotal. Researchers like Helen Marks (in her 2009 essay "Perspectives on Catholic Schools" in Mark Berends's "Handbook of Research on School Choice") have found that students learning in a Catholic school, in an environment replete with moral values and the practice of faith, produce test scores and achievements that reliably outstrip their public-school counterparts.
This is why, to the consternation of our critics, we won't back away from insisting that faith formation be part of our curriculum, even for non-Catholic students. As education expert Diane Ravitch has observed, "A large part of the Catholic schools' success derives from the fact that they are faith-based and that they sustain a sense of genuine community, as well as stability. To me, and I am not Catholic, the success of Catholic schools depends on maintaining their religious identity, that is, keeping the crucifixes in the classrooms as well as the freedom to speak freely about one's values."
Parents who are not Catholic often choose Catholic schools because of the institutions' moral grounding, not in spite of it. They know that Catholic-school graduates Catholic and non-Catholic alike make good citizens, involved in community service and committed to social justice. We also find that Catholic alumni are, on the whole, more faithful in their practice of their religion as well.
You will not be surprised to learn, then, that I believe our Catholic schools are a "pearl of great price," worth every drop of sweat and ounce of effort that we are making on their behalf. At a time when even public schools across the country are struggling, we Catholic educators need to be bold in our thinking and daring in our actions as we look to the future. That is why the Archdiocese of New York has instituted Pathways to Excellence, a strategic plan that is reshaping how Catholic schools are run.
The goal is a system of strong, accessible, affordable Catholic schools, owned by every parish, supported by every Catholic, available to every child.
Since the mid-19th century, the Catholic-school model has been "one parish, one school." That served us well for many years, but it has become painfully obvious that a new model is needed. Beginning in September, the Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of New York will be broken down into regions, and every parish will be responsible for, contribute to, send children to, and have a voice in Catholic education in the archdiocese.
The laity will be called on to have an expanded leadership role in school governance with pastors. An essential component of regionalization is reinvestment, which includes reallocating current resources back into Catholic education while identifying and securing additional funding. The goal is a system of strong, accessible, affordable Catholic schools, owned by every parish, supported by every Catholic, available to every child.
We will also be investing more in marketing. It has been pointed out to me that our Catholic schools are a great story but, maybe because we've been taught that modesty is a virtue, we're sometimes reluctant to blow our own horn. We must be willing to advertise, if we're going to attract more students, particularly since only about 25% of Catholic children attend a Catholic school.
Finally, we will continue and intensify our outreach to new immigrants to America. Catholic schools have been one of the greatest engines of enculturation, and through efforts like the Catholic School Advantage Program, run in conjunction with Notre Dame University, the archdiocese is reaching out to Hispanic and Latino parents to invite them to our Catholic schools.
Catholic churches and schools were originally built on the small donations of immigrants who sacrificed nickels, dimes and dollars to make sure that their children were fully educated in a Catholic setting and emerged fully American. We Catholics must never lose the nerve, the daring and the dream that inspired our ancestors in the faith.
I am not Roman Catholic, but definitely 'catholic' in the sense of being a believer in Christ and a part of His bride, His Church.
The above line, however, is a bottom line: To take back America we must take back education and we must find alternatives to the media that are BETTER than network media.
Homeschooling, Christian Schools, and maybe even "internet schools" are the direction we should pray all our brothers and sisters in Christ realize is the way to reclaim our children.
moral absolutes ping?
The Catholic Church has decided to close all grade schools ?
Since their choice was to pay off the Legal debts of the Pedifile Priests, there is no money left for the schools/.
What a disgrace, shame on our gutless Clergy, “Hierarchy”.
we will have a church Population like Ireland, 4%.
Thats all folks.
It shouldn’t be rocket science as to why Catholic Schools are closing...
of 55 Million abortions, 13 Million of those babies would have been born into Catholic families... add countless babies eliminated via contraception and here we are.
Fewer children, fewer schools. Duh.
Very disappointed with Dolan on this matter. It turns out that two smaller Catholic high schools are being closed. The one from which I graduated over 50 years ago, Blessed Sacrament in New Rochelle, is a parish school that has been operating for over 60 years. Its tuition, while no bargain, is about half the tuition of two other Catholic schools in New Rochelle.
So, it is the middle class Catholics who will be deprived of sending their sons and daughters for a Catholic high school education. In my opinion, this closure is not due to a lack of students as the student population is very close to what it was when I attended. Rather, it is due to a lack of will to find a way to keep these schools operating. How about applying a good bit of business sense?
I guess I should consider myself lucky as it turns out that my grammar school was on the closure list as well but was able to convince the diocese powers to allow it to remain open.
Regrettably, Cardinal Dolan doesn't really spell out a plan to save Catholic schools. He spells out a decent plan to delay the day of reckoning, but that's about it.
To me, there are any number of contributing factors to the decline of education. In no particular order, they include:
- The lack of commitment on the part of many, many bishops;
- The lack of commitment on the part of many, many Catholic parents to obey the teachings of the Catholic Church to try to avoid sending our children to secular or non-Catholic schools. Yep, that's right - Catholics are obligated to give their children a Catholic education, and ideally, that is in a Catholic school (or, alternatively, through Catholic homeschooling);
- Skyrocketing costs of providing a Catholic education for one’s children. This has its own set of causes, including the decline of teaching orders providing inexpensive teachers to schools, the exploding costs of public schools, putting pressures on Catholic schools to “keep up with the Joneses,” some of it regrettably embraced by the schools, some forced through accreditation;
- Ironically, charter schools and public school choice. In some jurisdictions where previously the academic opportunities available through public schools were very limited and often very poor, public school choice, especially charter schools, are permitting public school districts to compete, in some places for the first time in decades, with Catholic schools academically. I know this from first-hand experience.
- Some folks even blame us homeschoolers, as we haven't helped the enrollment numbers, either. I will note, though, that my wife and I would have gladly sent our children to local Catholic elementary schools, but they were not sufficiently academically excellent nor sufficiently Catholic. When our sons got to high school age, there WAS/IS a Catholic high school that met those two criteria, and we DID/DO send them to that school, where, because of their homeschooling, ranked/rank at the top of their class. My older son did quite well and managed to get accepted to several decent colleges. I have high hopes for my younger son, currently a high school junior.
Anyway, the challenges ahead for Catholic schools are enormous. I hope and pray we make it through. Most days, these days, I'm pessimistic.
As the salaries have gone up for Catholic School teachers, tuition has gone up, as well. And some parishes just do not have the means to continue the payments they must make to cover part of the costs necessary to run the school, with the kinds of money they're getting from parishoners each week. And this has nothing to do with the priest abuse issue. Our Parish has been working on the edge for years, simply because people in the Northeast don't tend to give as much to their parishes as folks in other areas of the country
From my perspective, a Catholic school is ... a school. A school is an industrial-warehouse setting in which my children would be age-segregated and labeled, and where they would spend most of their waking hours taught and led by people who are, in the majority, not as intelligent, well-educated, or faithfully Catholic as my husband and I are. (Yes, I'm bragging, I suppose, but we've got the degrees and test scores and studies to back the claim.
In summary, it is my opinion that the institution of Catholic schooling is not a religious icon or article of faith, but simply a professional service that a potential customer either chooses or doesn't choose. If they wish to remain in operation, standard economic rules apply: cut the expenses and/or increase the value to a potential customer.
You give excellent reasons for how you have handled schooling in your family.
However, that is not my reason for supporting Christian/private education.
We MUST get our kids out of the hands of establishment education and its socialist, anti-God indoctrination.
In order to do that, we must bring the cost of such an education down dramatically, so that all families can afford it. That is where cyber-education enters the picture.
It could well be the future of education in any case, and private schools would have a leg up were they to diligently pursue it right now.
I agree with you, xzins, especially about cyber-education. One of my issues with Cdl. Dolan’s perspective is that he seems to be repeating, or at least taking seriously, the government-school viewpoint that (to reduce to bare minimum) keeping up employment and brick-and-mortar facilities is key.
The Charlotte school system pours a massively disproportionate share of resources into keeping the oldest, least-used, and least successful schools open and super-fully staffed, while overcrowded schools where the people actually live are shortchanged. New York schools (private or public) have this issue in spades, because pretty much their entire functioning population is apparently trying to move to Charlotte.
A school in itself is not of value, no matter how sentimentally its alumni remember it. If the people have moved away, the school is just a money pit, consuming scarce resources that living people need, and shaking one’s fist at the tides of demographic change is a waste of emotional energy.
Catholic schools are expanding here in NC, but I am not impressed by their financial stewardship. Like public schools (and universities), the buildings are ever-more palatial. They are “good for the environment,” which I read as “wasteful and ideologically dinglebobbed.” The instructional model is ever more labor-intensive, with not only smaller class sizes, but more and more “specialists.” The curriculum is “relevant” and the technology is “cutting-edge.” And the faculty, maybe they believe the Catholic Faith, and maybe they don’t. Everyone wants to help the poor, which is important, but don’t press them about anything “divisive” regarding faith and morals.
With all respect for their good intentions, I don’t see this as a solid effort to make a truly Catholic (or Christian) education available to the generality of our population. In price and facilities, it’s more like competing for the “we can afford the best” customer with Charlotte Latin School and Providence Country Day.