The Future of Catholic Schools

With the discussion relating to Catholic homeschooling last week, I was strongly reminded of this (very good) article on the future of Catholic schools in the spring issue of National Affairs which a good friend pointed me towards a while back. As the article points out, the issues facing Catholic schools are many, though perhaps the biggest are:

  • Public schools are no longer the explicitly Protestant institutions they were back in the 1900-1960 era
  • The teaching orders whose virtually free labor made Catholic schools relatively affordable in their golden age virtually ceased to exist in the decades following Vatican II
  • Changing demographics have moved Catholic populations away from many of the schools already built, and in this day and age building new ones is vastly more expensive

    This has left many dioceses struggling with whether to shutter schools, and many of the continuing urban Catholic schools serving students who are mostly not Catholic.

    The Archdiocese of New York, for example, reported in 2008 that, among its inner-city schools, nearly two-thirds of students lived below the poverty line and more than 90% were racial minorities. In Washington, D.C., as of 2007, more than 70% of students attending the lowest-income Catholic schools were non-Catholic. In Memphis’s inner-city “Jubilee” Catholic schools, as of 2008, 96% of students lived below the poverty line and 81% were non-Catholic. In fact, over the past 40 years, the portion of minority students in Catholic schools overall increased by 250%, and the share of non-Catholic students increased by 500%.

    Many of the people associated with these schools will explain that they are motivated not by an obligation to evangelize but by a desire to fulfill their faith’s longstanding commitment to service. Among them, an unofficial creed has slowly emerged: “We don’t serve these students because they are Catholic, we serve them because we are Catholic.” Regardless of one’s position on public support for religiously affiliated entities, it is difficult not to acknowledge that these schools are fully engaged in the noble vocation of public service, civil rights, and social justice. The challenge now is to clear the way for public support of that vocation — and one promising policy innovation may provide the solution.

    The situation in the suburban Los Angeles Catholic schools that I was familiar with as a youth had similarities and differences. They didn’t lack for students, because a crumbling public school system left many parents searching for private alternatives. But there were a great many non-Catholic parents as well as Catholic ones eager to send their children to schools with tuition substantially lower than secular private schools. (Charters didn’t exist back then, so that dynamic may be changing.) As a result, with waiting lists for admission, schools often selected parents likely to pay their tuition bills regardless of religious affiliation, and as student bodies became less Catholic, so did the instruction. Aside from the wishy-washiness of many of the people in parish or diocesan religious education, if you have a lot of parents paying your bills who would like a vaguely “religious heritage” but not very rigorous catechesis, money usually ends up talking.

    Either way, however, what you get is Catholic schools which are run by Catholics, and to some extent for Catholics, but which do not have imparting the faith to students and maintaining an explicitly Catholic culture as a primary mission. And as this ceases to be the case, many of the parents who are most serious about their children’s faith (and thus who are most likely to provide lots of support and volunteer hours to a school) will start to wonder if it’s really worth making major financial sacrifices in order to send their children to a Catholic school.

    What the solution to this is I honestly can’t say. In a world in which we don’t have the massive numbers of religious brothers and sisters who staffed schools in the past — people willing to accept a live of celibacy and poverty in order to care for the wider Church family rather than have families of their own — operating traditional format private schools is financially prohibitive without a tithing culture which goes far beyond what Catholics generally achieve. And with a more educated laity, homeschooling and independent Catholic schools are realistic alternatives in a way in which they simply were not 50 or 100 years ago. It may be that the age of the Catholic school systems (an era which lasted less than 100 years in this country) is simply passed, not to return. If it is to continue, it would seem that it will need to do so through substantial change over the years to come.

    UPDATE: Commenter JH points to a great post from Rich Leonardi from a while back which highlights a truly innovative approach which the Diocese of Wichita has taken — they’ve made tuition free to Catholic students while asking the diocese as a whole to step up and make a commitment to supporting Catholic schools through tithing. This has things booming in Catholic education in Kansas.

    20 Responses to The Future of Catholic Schools

    • Either way, however, what you get is Catholic schools which are run by Catholics, and to some extent for Catholics, but which do not have imparting the faith to students and maintaining an explicitly Catholic culture as a primary mission. And as this ceases to be the case, many of the parents who are most serious about their children’s faith (and thus who are most likely to provide lots of support and volunteer hours to a school) will start to wonder if it’s really worth making major financial sacrifices in order to send their children to a Catholic school.

      Well, it’s what you get, not what I get.

      I’ll leave to another day the larger discussion that many conservatives seem to exclusively speak to the more affluent and white collar element of society (If the President proposes raising taxes on Americans with incomes over $1/4 mill “They are going to raise your taxes.” Or “Young Catholics are becoming more orthodox and traditional,” citing a survey of college students. And of the 3/4ths of Catholics who do not go to college? )

      And I’ll accept your analysis of suburban Catholic schools. I don’t have any experience there. But I do believe in the value of the Catholic inner city schools that I have experience with. We do a great job in imparting the faith to students and maintaining an explicitly Catholic culture as a primary mission. The baptisms and confirmations of parish school students at the Easter Vigil gave witness to that.

      Some of our school parents try but few contribute much to the school financially or in volunteer time. They are mostly low wage, often working two part time jobs, or they have never met their child, in prison or on drugs.

      Left to my call, I would close the parish before I would close the school. As for the suburban schools, maybe it is time to give up on them.

    • I’ll leave to another day the larger discussion that many conservatives seem to exclusively speak to the more affluent and white collar element of society (If the President proposes raising taxes on Americans with incomes over $1/4 mill “They are going to raise your taxes.” Or “Young Catholics are becoming more orthodox and traditional,” citing a survey of college students. And of the 3/4ths of Catholics who do not go to college? )

      Hmmm. Interesting opening here.

      - I am not clear that conservatives speak exclusively to the more affluent and white collar element of society — any more than that progressives all engage in armchair sham solidarity with “the poor”. Both are exaggerations which people use when they want to make a point about people they don’t like.

      - It is true that conservatives do not tend to take a “don’t worry, they’re not coming for you right now” approach to tax increases. We tend to dislike them in general.

      - Unless you’re seeing very data than I have ever run into, I have no idea where you get the claim that 3/4 of Catholics do not go to college. Overall, more than 60% of American high school graduates take at least some college, and I’ve seen little to suggest that the figures are so diametrically opposite for Catholics as for the rest of Americans.

      And I’ll accept your analysis of suburban Catholic schools. I don’t have any experience there. But I do believe in the value of the Catholic inner city schools that I have experience with. We do a great job in imparting the faith to students and maintaining an explicitly Catholic culture as a primary mission.

      If so, that’s certainly great, though the article I linked to talks in depth about DC inner city Catholic schools, and talks about the tendency to de-emphasize specifically Catholic elements of the curriculum in order to appeal to the 90% of parents who are not Catholic in these neighborhoods.

      Now, providing alternative sources of education (especially when the union-influenced Democratic party establishment is so set on quashing vouchers in DC) is absolutely an activity worthy of the Church’s efforts, but as the article discusses, I think it’s important that if schools have decided that their mission is to provide alternative education venues to poor non-Catholic families, that they frame that subject that way when putting the issue to donors. Right now, urban Catholic school systems are still structured around the idea that a parish school is for educating the children of the parish and should be supported primarily by the parish — yet the actual parishes for many of these urban schools have withered away for lack of Catholics.

      If schools want to re-mission themselves as primarily a missionary or social service institution providing quality education to children who could not otherwise afford private schools, that is absolutely outstanding and should be supported. But it needs to be proposed as that, not as somehow being a continuation of the 1950s model of parish schools in which tuition and that parish’s weekly collection made up the expenses.

    • 84.7% of graduates from Catholic high schools go on to attend four year colleges as opposed to 44.1% of graduates from public schools according to the National Catholic Educational Association.

      http://www.pacatholic.org/catholic-education/catholic-school-students-graduate-go-to-college-at-higher-rates/

      I have never seen any evidence to suggest that three-fourths of Catholics never go to college.

    • In some areas Catholic school are booming. Including one Diocese where the Catholic parents pay no tution and they are building more. However I have been in the Catholic Church long enough to realize that some of these Dioceses could be on the moon and know one will attempt to go there and find out how it works

      http://richleonardi.blogspot.com/2008/04/tuition-free-catholic-schools.html

    • I am not clear that conservatives speak exclusively to the more affluent and white collar element of society

      Not all. I’m just struck by the many occassions where I hear comments made in a general forum by political conservatives but use the term “you” to speak of white collar or affluent people.

      If so, that’s certainly great, …

      I think it is. For me, its one of the brightest spots in church life. That’s why inner city Catholic education is the major focus of my charitable giving.

      though the article I linked to talks in depth about DC inner city Catholic schools, and talks about the tendency to de-emphasize specifically Catholic elements of the curriculum in order to appeal to the 90% of parents who are not Catholic in these neighborhoods.

      In my experience, I think respectful accomodations are met. I’m sure our environment does not meet the standards desired by many of the parents who get their children’s book from Igantius Press. But I have not found any of those folks willing to live in the neighborhoods we serve. It is a religious environment that does not deny our Catholic principles but seeks to serve as we can.

      In raw numbers it is an intake with 90% non-Catholic and an out-take with no less than 20% Catholic. I think the Opus Dei school that relocated from the affluent part of DC to the far suburbs has a 90% Catholic in-take and a 70% Catholic out-take. I’m betting most other suburban Catholic schools are in the same ballpark.

      But we make no apologies for not measuring sucess by how many non-Catholics we get to the baptismal pool. Of the majority who neither come in nor leave Catholic, many of them are quick to witness that their experience has made them better Christians or caused them to become Christians, even though of another community. The alumni newsletter of one of our inner city schools recently profiled a star graduate who proclaimed that his faith was exhanced by the school to the point where it led him to enter the ministry in the Baptist Church (the powers that be however, did decline my suggestion that he be tallied as a vocation from the school).

      These schools I speak of are probably no better academically than the public schools. While it is our mission to give kids a good education, it is not our mission to give them an academic alternatives to the public schools. We work to help enhance their love of God and neighbor and showing them our love of God and neighbor.

      And the parish, including the childless and those who send their children elsewhere are tremendous supporters of this mission.

    • I’m just struck by the many occassions where I hear comments made in a general forum by political conservatives but use the term “you” to speak of white collar or affluent people.

      Most people, absent some reason to do otherwise, assume that their audience in any given conversation is like themselves. Similarly, most people online are by some definition of the term “white collar” though often not “affluent”. (Blue collars as simply not that common these days, as manufacturing work has become so efficient as to need relatively few workers.)

      I’m sure our environment does not meet the standards desired by many of the parents who get their children’s book from Igantius Press. But I have not found any of those folks willing to live in the neighborhoods we serve…. But we make no apologies for not measuring sucess by how many non-Catholics we get to the baptismal pool.

      Following on the above point: like most other people, I tend to address, by default, people in a position similar to my own. In this case, parents with lots of young Catholic children who, if they are going to pay for a Catholic school, want to know that it is serious about teaching the Catholic faith and living out an authentically Catholic environment — not a vaguely Christian one.

      Now honestly, I would have no problem also supporting (to the extent possible given my extant commitments to my parish and diocese and other Catholic organizations such as Food For The Poor) schools run by Catholics for the purpose of providing a free or highly subsidized Christian education to children living in poor urban neighborhoods. I think that kind of work can make some of the biggest differences in people’s actual lives.

      But that seems to me a very different mission than the one which parish schools are typically pitching themselves as fulfilling.

      Also, it’s probably worth noting:

      - It seems odd to fault people who have other options for not wanting to live in poor urban neighborhoods, given that most of the people who do live there would probably rather live somewhere else given the choice too.

      - While it may seem, from your political point of view, like a worthy object of snark, the religious education texts put out by Ignatius Press for elementary level Catholic schools and parish religious education programs really are first rate. Having seen many of the heavy handed and triumphalist reprints from the 30s through the 60s which some homeschoolers use, and the watered-down-to-the-point-of-insanely-dull mainstream texts put out by publishers such as Macmillan and Silver Burdett — the Ignatius Faith & Life texts are very good resources for parents and schools. (I know several “normal” catechists who use them simply because they’re more interesting and less fluffy than a lot of other texts.) I’m not sure why Ignatius Press itself would be considered a particular target of mockery just because they put out solid books, whether CCD texts or the Pope’s works.

    • Most people, absent some reason to do otherwise, assume that their audience in any given conversation is like themselves. Similarly, most people online are by some definition of the term “white collar” though often not “affluent”.

      Yes, I was mostly referring to statements I read or hear conservatives making on television or in the daily newspaper. I confess that my personal interactions tend to be more with working class people than white collar. But I understand your point.

      Following on the above point: like most other people, I tend to address, by default, people in a position similar to my own

      That is why dialogue is so wonderful. I guess I would tend to do the same, but through dialogue both you and I have opportunity for a broader exposure. That’s a good thing, I think.

      Now honestly, I would have no problem also supporting [such schools]. I think that kind of work can make some of the biggest differences in people’s actual lives.

      I appreciate that. Thank you.

      But that seems to me a very different mission than the one which parish schools are typically pitching themselves as fulfilling.

      I guess what you find typical and what is typical in my life is back to the discussion earlier. I don’t think I have ever stepped foot into a suburban Catholic school. I trust your judgment on them.

      It seems odd to fault people who have other options for not wanting to live in poor urban neighborhoods

      I don’t fault such people, but I am a great admirer of those who intentionally live among the poor. Here there must be a dozen “intentional communities” as the kids call them of young Catholics aflame with the Church’s social teaching living among low income people. This movement rarely gets the attention it deserves but I think is one of the great lay apostolates of our time. And they are complemented by many Catholic individual or families doing the same because of their faith and Catholic Social Teaching. It harkens back to the 1930s when Catholic “social justice types” with advanced degrees took jobs in factories to be among the workers.

      I’m not sure why Ignatius Press itself would be considered a particular target of mockery

      I didn’t mock them. I noted they are not successful in getting their publications into the hands of inner city residents who are in need of evangelization. Maybe they tried and failed, maybe they have not tried, or maybe that is not their “market” (sorry to use an entrepreneurial term). I don’t know and I didn’t speculate.

    • I guess what you find typical and what is typical in my life is back to the discussion earlier. I don’t think I have ever stepped foot into a suburban Catholic school. I trust your judgment on them.

      Well, as someone who’s read a certain amount about the actual history of the Catholic school system, I can assure you that it really is the case that parish schools were originally built to serve primarily Catholic children who lived in the parish — not non-Catholic children looking for an alternative to inner city public schools.

      It was as many Catholics left these neighborhoods that the schools re-purposed themselves to serve non-Catholic students.

      This is not a matter of your experience versus mine, it’s simply a matter of history. Among other resources, the article which I linked to above describes the history of the Catholic school system in the US.

      It’s not a matter of urban versus suburban, nor does it require parsing according to different people’s experience. While there have been mission schools of various sorts intended to serve non-Catholic students, the parish schools were built to serve Catholic children from the parish. I’m kind of surprised that someone who generally knows as much about the history of the institutional church in the US as you do would consider this a matter of dispute or opinion.

      Also, just as a side note: I remain unclear why it is that you seem to consistently equate “suburban” with “affluent”, the two do not necessarily correlate at all. I don’t know if you’re familiar with the regions of Los Angeles at all, but San Fernando is a very solidly working class to lower middle class area. It’s not Watts, but it’s no Santa Monica either.

    • I can assure you that it really is the case that parish schools were originally built to serve primarily Catholic children who lived in the parish

      In the case of my Washington, DC parish, that would be WHITE Catholic children. Black Catholic children of the parish were not allowed in the school until those pushy liberals forced the issue.

    • In the case of my Washington, DC parish, that would be WHITE Catholic children. Black Catholic children of the parish were not allowed in the school until those pushy liberals forced the issue.

      Ummm… Okay. I’m not really clear where you’re going with that.

      Obviously I think it’s appalling that DC area parishes behaved that way. Or is this a “see who can associate the other with worse events that happened before I was born” contest?

    • Kurt,

      Do you get paid by the word, or for each accusation you level at the conservative, evil, rich white devil?

      Regards,

      T: one of them

    • “Changing demographics have moved Catholic populations away from many of the schools already built”

      I’m hoping to change one small aspect of this problem. It’s actually against federal law to place a housing advertisement that mentions whether a church or religious institution is in the neighborhood. It’s considered a covert signal of intent to discriminate. (Ridiculously strict, I think.)

      Liberalize housing laws like these, and realtors and their clients can more easily form the kind of neighborhoods that support Catholic schools in an organic way.

      “Intentional communities” are probably overrated and require too much work for most people. At the same time, there’s nothing stopping Catholic families from deciding to re-colonize an old urban parish with a high-potential school. These efforts seem more realistic to me than Ave Maria Town-type endeavors.

      Of course, this assumes that the old urban parishes can be safe enough. And I’m not sure this is possible.

      My grandparents had lived in a thriving urban parish neighborhood. But crime increased, Catholics moved away, and they were struck by an arsonist twice in the twilight of their days. Their son still lives in the city only because he’s in the same working-class neighborhood where many police live.

      The anti-suburb mentality ignores these tragedies. It expresses disdain for those who fled for fear of their safety, when we should disdain the authorities who failed (refused?) to provide effective protection.

      Even the anti-racist mentality probably shackled authorities’ hands and guaranteed the destruction of these Catholic neighborhoods. “White flight” was caused by sticks as well as carrots.

    • This is another of those interesting examples of how you never know, when you write a post, where the discussion thread will go. It seemed to me that the interesting story here is how to fund and organize Catholic schools (or if so many Catholic schools are even required) in the Catholic Church in the modern US.

      In the framing of this, the National Interest story seems to provide a pretty compelling example of the issues at play, with Archbishop Wuerl of the Diocese of Washington DC having a dozen inner city Catholic schools which the diocese could no longer succeed in keeping afloat financially turned into secular charter schools so that they could continue their mission (with much of the same staff) albeit with all religious identity stripped away as required by the charter school system.

      What came up as a discussion topic instead, however, was another area in which Catholics have strong opinions about each other.

    • Ummm… Okay. I’m not really clear where you’re going with that.

      Obviously I think it’s appalling that DC area parishes behaved that way.

      I have absolutely no doubt you find that appalling. However, you overlooked that very real and significant historical fact in your accounting of the situation. That’s all.

    • I have absolutely no doubt you find that appalling. However, you overlooked that very real and significant historical fact in your accounting of the situation. That’s all.

      I said that the parish school system in the US was built for the purpose of providing Catholic schooling to the children in the parish. You tell me that in your parish, this was true to an extent, but that prior to a certain point (the 50s or 60s, I assume?) the parish only allowed the children of white parishioners in.

      That doesn’t really change the point that parish schools were built, and their funding mechanisms were design, to provide schooling for Catholic children of families in the parish, via the means of largely free clerical and religious teachers. As parishes have emptied and religious orders with the mission of providing education have dried up, this mission has changed and the structure has in many cases proved unsustainable (as shown by the fact that Abp. Wuerl recently had to secularize a dozen full inner city Catholic schools.)

      I’m not sure what the segregation point brings to the matter — other than that it allowed you to associate yourself with “those pushy liberals” who advocated for the change and by implication to associate conservatives with the racists in your parish.

    • Much is usually written about the decline of our Faith experienced by students at the university or college level and, to a lesser degree, Catholic high schools. Rarely are Catholic K-8 schools part of this discussion, though 47% of this year’s new priests attended these schools (a larger percentage than Catholic high schools or colleges). The focus of concern needs to stress this level for many reasons, not the least of these is that by the time a student reaches high school it is already too late for many. Those who don’t have the opportunity to attend a Catholic high school are doomed to only a two-year Confirmation program where there is little grounding in the Faith, but instead Protestant-like feel good group sessions. While some will disagree, Kumbaya sessions are not enough to enable a teenager to defend their Faith when the inevitable challenge presents itself.
      The Faith needs to be introduced at the lowest level and it must be authentic. Most parents are not very well versed in Catholicism (and the reasons are many). Most say they want their children to know what it is to be Catholic and they ruefully add that they didn’t “get much” when they were younger and they hope for more for their children today.
      Learning the Faith is difficult if one only uses a textbook. This is because most textbooks are very “sugar-coated” and do a great disservice to Catholicism and to students. Why? Many of the basic tenets of Faith are glossed over or ignored. So much of our religion and its heritage are not addressed that our students leave for high school ill-prepared (though the high school curriculum leaves much to be desired, as well) and unable to clearly express what we believe and who we are. (Try, “Why did God create you?” and you’ll hear nothing faintly resembling the old Catechism.)
      Another problem is that students don’t see their Faith in action. Parents have sloppy Mass attendance records, teaching and administrative staffs are not entirely Catholic and, worse, many are “barely” practicing. Hardly what anyone would want from any Catholic school system!
      What can be done?
      Obviously correcting what has already been discussed – first. This will not be as easy as it appears. Publishers wield a lot of influence in public and parochial schools, sacrificing content for cost of books is always a potential problem, though the more “conservative” textbooks are not usually even to be considered.
      Staffs and administrators need to be “authentically” Catholic, not of some other religion and not merely giving lip-service to what we believe – pastors and (arch-)dioceses need to listen to parents and their complaints and not be afraid to take action.
      To the horror of many, introduce an 8th grade final exam for Religion (not a bad idea for high schools, either). The dread this causes many administrators is that they are entirely confident that so many will fail! These administrators know that their Religion teachers are part of the touchy-feely crowd (as they are themselves) and they root-out those who actually try to give students a foundation in Catholicism in a variety of ways (it’s sometimes dangerous to teach the Faith, even in a Catholic school!). It is also common for administrators to give only lip-service to religion as a subject because math and science are more important subjects among their colleagues and in high school and college entrance exams.
      Insure that the pastor is in favor of a school. This is not as obvious as it appears. There are many who did not go to a Catholic school growing up so they don’t understand what is happening, except that it’s a financial drain on the parish. Bishops and, by extension, priests are charged with ensuring that every child who wants to attend a Catholic school can do so, but reality often seems to get in the way.
      How many dioceses left the National Catholic Education Association when it became known that Sr. Helen Prejean and Garrison Keillor were keynote speakers? None? What the Church teaches, Catholics believe – not a portion, not a little, but all. To give people – sisters, priests, bishops, whoever –who do not profess a profound belief in our Faith a platform to speak is inimical to Catholic teaching and gives scandal. School superintendents and bishops share a responsibility in determining who their schools associate with.
      Grounding our children in the faith may also be rewarding in an unexpected way: some may also grow up to become sisters, brothers and priests if the groundwork is properly set. The groundwork lies in the very beginning.

    • FYI, Archbishop Dolan of NY had a thoughtful article on Catholic schools in America a few months ago. See here:

      http://www.americamagazine.org/content/article.cfm?article_id=12448

    • Catholic schools ought to be scrapped entirely, unless they can establish an active association with parish led by pastor which includes financial underwriting such that fees paid per family regardless of income are nominal. (Or, in future, depending on politics, the use of vouchers). Fundraising for the school should not be conducted among presently attending families since this fosters favoritism, is unhealthy and leads to scandal. All schools should be required to promote the basic tenets of the faith and families as well as administrators and teachers also should agree to the necessity to receive sacraments regularly, to attend Mass as a family weekly and to embrace Catholic values in the home. Families whether Catholic or non-Catholic should agree before being admitted.

      As presently constituted many Catholic schools undermine the faith or interfere with the basic practice of the faith by families. Many are unaffordable and become the playground of the rich and powerful, regardless of faith affiliation. This is why so many opt for homeschooling or public school where one can encounter a more diverse cross section of society in general.

    • I find mystifying some of the characterizations of Catholic schools that I have read on American Catholic.

      My children go to Catholic school – my son to the parish school and my eldest to an all-girl IHM school. I find their lives enriched by the experience and helping them grasp the subtleties of our faith forces me to read more, consider more, and pray more.

      “(U)ndermine the faith [and] interfere with the basic practice of the faith by families”? What does that mean? Preparing one’s child for Reconciliation or Holy Communion is a pretty “basic practice of the faith” and Catholic schooling is chocked full of such experiences.! And, have you ever actually met an IHM Sister? If ever there was a repository of fiery faith and dedication among merely mortal beings, it rests there!

      I have the greatest respect for those who home-school. Whether it is by choice or due to necessity, the decision to keep at least a step ahead of what your kids have to know at each grade level, in every single subject, throughout their schooling is an extraordinary commitment. Home-schooling isn’t for everyone though. Some of us lack the patience to be formal teachers. Suggesting that Catholic schools aren’t worth the expense because they are little more than secular schools narrows our options to either home-schooling them as Catholics or give them over to Secularism.

      I wonder too if the cost complaints fail to consider the relative costs of such schooling in 1920 or 1950? Many Catholic families in 1950 had four or more children. Only one parent was working and more people held blue-collar jobs. Might it be unfair to suggest that our costs for raising our children as Catholics are unbearable and theirs were not? From the conversations I’ve heard over the years, sending your children to private schools has always been a burden. Maybe the difference is that it was a burden born more graciously in previous generations.

      The short of it is that I love our schools and see them as a critical piece to preserving Catholicism in America. If one’s treasure is where one’s heart is, maybe the things that are being complained of are more a reflection of our hesitancy to sacrifice for something as little valued in the world as a Catholic education. What I mean is that it is easy choose Catholic schools in places where the public schools are poor.

      It is much harder to choose them where the public schools are little less than campuses filled with every amenity and opportunity EXCEPT faith. Many choose to set aside a Catholic education in favor of what they perceive to be a better, albeit secular, education. I believe though that the sizes of CCD classes reflect the decreasing importance of faith within some families who make that choice. How many of the complaints about the cost and quality of Catholic schools are really masks to hide the darker truth – that loss of access to a top tier football team, university quality laboratories, and vacations to Disney World is an unacceptable cost for “mere” reinforcement of faith and values?

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