Thursday, July 05, 2007

Catholic Archdiocese Receives $22.5 Million Donation For Scholarships

This donation is great news for New York's struggling Catholic schools, which for many families are the only escape from failing public schools.  I've said it before and I'll say it again: it is utter madness to allow the Catholic school system in our nation's inner cities to wither away for lack of a couple of thousand dollars per child per year, when we spend many multiples of that on so many schools that are proven failure!  That's not to say that I think Catholic schools are all great or that they're THE SOLUTION that a lot of naive people seem to be looking for, but I sure think they're one of the 100 1% solutions we need.
I visited a Catholic school in Harlem a month or two ago with Cardinal Egan and a small group of supporters and continue to be impressed.  The NY Archdiocese runs the largest Catholic school system in the country, with 279 schools and 106,500 children in Manhattan, the Bronx, Staten Island and seven upstate counties.  108 of the schools are in low-income areas of NYC and, in these schools, 64% of the children are poor, 92% are minority and nearly 40% are not Catholic.  The average tuition charged is $2,700/year for elementary schools and $5,000 for high schools; the actual cost is $1,000-$1,200 more, which the archdiocese tries to raise from philanthropists.  This is a small fraction of the $12,000+ spent per child by the public school system (going to $16,000+ with the new CFE money). 
The high school dropout rate is less than 1%, student test scores are higher in every grade and subject than NYC, NYS and national averages, and there's only been one act of serious violence in the entire system in the past seven years.
Of course, the Catholic schools benefit from a significant degree of selection bias and can expel bad students, etc., so it's not a perfect apples-to-apples comparison, but there is zero doubt in my mind -- and, I'd argue, in the mind of any rational, objective observer -- that many (probably most) of the Catholic schools in NYC are providing a far better alternative to inner-city families than the local public school, so can someone please tell me why we're letting this system wither away?!
(Yeah, I know about the separation of church and state, but I don't think much if any proselytizing is going on and, frankly, I just want safe schools with good teachers for children that aren't getting them now!)
Making the situation even more tragic, the archdiocese has the capacity to take at least 5,000 students RIGHT NOW (and far more over time), and they've said they'll take the most difficult students, who are furthest behind and present the greatest behavior problems (over 40% of students entering Catholic high schools are coming from public schools).  Why, for pete's sake, wouldn't we take them up on this offer?!
Edward Cardinal Egan accepted a $22.5 donation from philanthropist Robert Wilson Wednesday at the Immaculate Conception school in Manhattan. It is the biggest gift in the archdiocese's history.

Wilson, an atheist, blames the United Federation of Teachers for poor public education and for an ongoing assault in private education.

"Basically we are dealing with an organization that makes it difficult to educate kids, but is dead set against the Roman Catholic schools," said Wilson.

Wilson’s statement was in reference to UFT efforts to block voucher legislation that would give money to families, who could use to send their kids to Catholic schools.

Of Mr. Wilson's comments and his gift, UFT President Randi Weingarten said it was a shame Wilson "chose to taint it with an attack on New York City's public school teachers and their union.

Catholic Archdiocese Receives $22.5 Million Donation For Scholarships

May 23, 2007

It's not a gift from above, but the Catholic Archdiocese of New York received $27 million in one day to fund scholarships for inner city children. 




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