Consider the following statistics:
- Catholic elementary schools in the Archdiocese of Chicago saw enrollment increase 3% in 2012 and 1% in 2011—the first two-year period of growth since 1965. Archdiocese of Boston elementary schools had a 2% bump—the first in two decades. The Archdioceses of Los Angeles and Indianapolis and the Diocese of Bridgeport (CN) also increased in student population for the first time in a very long time.
- Since 2000, U.S. Catholic school enrollment has plummeted by 23% and 1.9k schools have closed. However, the rate of decline in the number of Catholic schools has slowed. In 2012, 2M students attended Catholic schools, down 1.7% from 2011, but less than the average yearly decline of 2.5% since 2000.
The Wall Street Journal suggests that much of this growth is due to the increasing availability of vouchers, which ease the financial burden on parents of sending their kids to non-public schools.
- Vouchers are currently available in 10 states and the District of Columbia.
- Virginia, Florida, and Louisiana each created or expanded voucher or tax credit programs in the last 18 months.
- Indiana boasts the largest voucher system in the nation. More than 2.4k students have transferred from public schools to private Catholic schools since the program began last year.
Perhaps this “success” is for entirely the wrong reason.
While voucher programs may have “breathed new life” into Catholic schools while simultaneously offering students the opportunity to receive a superior education, are those schools decidedly Catholic? And if it is claimed they are, how so?
Let’s try a couple of “not’s”:
- A good private school that calls itself Catholic isn’t a Catholic school.
- A good private school that offers a generic or optional Christian religion curriculum isn’t a Catholic school.
- A good private school that doesn’t immerse students in the faith and its practice isn’t a Catholic school.
- A good private school whose faculty, administration, and staff don’t believe what the Church teaches isn’t a Catholic school.
Then, let’s try a couple “what’s”:
- A Catholic school is one whose faculty, administration, and staff view their work as a vocation and collaborate together in the ministry of providing young people an integral education—mind and soul—as that is informed by Church teaching.
- A Catholic school is one whose students grow in love of God and neighbor through the practice of the Sacraments and communal prayer.
- A Catholic school is one where students learn about the Catholic religion and appreciate its role in salvation history.
The Motley Monk would rather there be no “quasi” Catholic schools than an increase in good private schools that masquerade as Catholic, take government money, and in the process, erode the important and distinctive mission of Catholic education.
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