Cutbacks Are Part of Plan to Save Parochial Schools
An article in yesterday's NYT about a very sad phenomenon – the closure of urban Catholic schools – and the bold steps Archbishop Timothy Dolan in NYC is taking. Too bad the article doesn't deal with the much bigger issue: the utter INSANITY, from a societal perspective, of allowing inner-city Catholic schools – which are often oases of safety, discipline and rigor – to close, while throwing massively more money at catastrophically failing public schools nearby. Why not give parents a choice: we'll spend $16-17,000 on your child at a public school (the average in NYC), but if you don't think it's right for your child, we'll give you a voucher (perhaps funded by a tax credit) for only HALF the amount that you can use to pay for a private school? This would empower parents, be another source of pressure on failing public schools to improve, likely result in better outcomes for students (including those "left behind"), AND save taxpayers money!
For more than a quarter-century, while Roman Catholic leaders around the country have closed parochial schools by the dozens in the face of rising costs and falling enrollments, the Archdiocese of New York has conducted a more stately retreat. It has shuttered schools a few at a time, in a reluctant if relentless downsizing that has come to be known among some church leaders as "the melancholy rite."
Now, Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan is signaling that he will soon mount a more aggressive effort to prune the number of schools and ensure the future of those that remain.
In speeches and articles over the last few months, the archbishop has sketched the broad outlines of a plan that includes consolidating or closing many of the 216 elementary schools in the system, changing the way parochial schools are financed and — for the first time in the archdiocese's 160-year history — redefining the basic relationship between Catholics and their schools.
Each elementary school has until now been financed mainly by members of its local parish. In the proposed reorganization, the cost of educating roughly 56,000 grade school students would be spread among all the parishes, and all the plate-passing churchgoers among 2.5 million Catholics in the archdiocese.
All dioceses have struggled with the steady loss of enrollment in parochial schools, which are considered important as feeders for Catholic high schools and colleges, and as developers of lifelong faith. Yet despite the loss of more than 1,500 schools in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and other major cities in the last decade, no church leader has suggested changes as sweeping as Archbishop Dolan's.