Donors Demand a Bigger Voice in Catholic Schools
A positive development – Catholic schools and school systems need accountability just like charter schools and regular public schools:
Private philanthropists have changed the face of public education over the last decade, underwriting the rise of charter schools and promoting remedies that rely heavily on student testing and teacher evaluation.
But with much less fanfare, wealthy donors have begun playing a parallel role in the country's next-largest educational network: Roman Catholic schools.
In New York — as in Boston, Baltimore and Chicago — shrinking enrollment and rising school deficits in recent years have deepened the church's dependence on its cadres of longtime benefactors. Donors have responded generously, but many who were once content to write checks and attend student pageants are now asking to see school budgets, student reading scores and principals' job evaluations.
In the jargon of education reform, they want transparency and accountability; and though the church bureaucracy has resisted similar demands from other constituents in the past, the donors are getting pretty much what they want.
To the delight of some educators and the discomfort of others, major contributors have won a voice in decision-making at every level, from the staffing of the schools to the frank financial self-examination that has nudged the Archdiocese of New York toward the most severe school consolidation in its history.