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Tuesday, September 4, 2012

America's Failing Catholic Schools

Posted by on Tue, Sep 4, 2012 at 4:37 PM

Forget for a moment the Seattle Times' blatantly transparent attempt to frame a "turnaround" (defined as a one-year increase in enrollment) at a local Catholic school as an example of "charter-style" reforms (putting up fliers and accepting a $433,000 grant to buy new computers). What's really fascinating about this article is the spotlight it shines on our nation's struggling Catholic schools, a struggle that public school critics never seem to want to talk much about.

According to data compiled by the National Catholic Education Association, total Catholic school enrollment has declined by 22 percent over the past decade, from 2,616,330 during the 2001-2002 to 2,031,455 in 2011-2012. Over that same period, a net total of 1,243 Catholic schools have shut their doors, falling from 8,114 schools a decade ago to only 6,841 today.

And what's at the root of these Catholic schools' woes? Over-reliance on a nonrenewable resource:

Scott Hamilton, who runs Seton Education Partners, a 3-year-old organization dedicated to helping Catholic schools thrive, said the bigger problem is that the former economic model of Catholic schools, which relied on low-paid nuns and large class sizes, is no longer possible. In 1960, nuns made up about 96 percent of the teaching force at Catholic schools, he said. Now they make up only about 3 percent.

For decades public school critics have pointed to less well-funded Catholic schools as proof that educators can do more with less. But it turns out that the secret to affordable private education has always been an under-staffed, underpaid faculty.

The charter school movement is not about reforming education, it's about reforming the management and administration of schools in a way that breaks the teachers unions and drives down wages and benefits. But, you know, if we continue to devalue both the status and pay of teachers, the best teachers may prove to be a nonrenewable resource too.


Comments (7) RSS

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Yup. I taught in a Catholic school for two years before I was laid off because of declining enrollment and the type of certification I had. I made $20,000 a year. Minimum pay for public school teachers in the same district a the time was $38,000.

I was living in a run down apartment, and I actually needed help from the congregation's St. Vincent DePaul Society to pay my gas bill one winter. The only good thing was that I had very good, fully paid health and dental insurance.

Single folks like me don't last long teaching in Catholic schools. Most of their workforce are people whose spouses make a very good living. That's the only way they can make it work.
Posted by Sheryl on September 4, 2012 at 4:59 PM · Report this
It's cool. The ones with a masters can just move to another country and be paid more.
Posted by Spike1382 on September 4, 2012 at 5:58 PM · Report this

I went Catholic K-12 in the 60s and 70s, and think I got the best of the deal.

On the one hand, there were still lots of clergy teaching...with the occasional "lay teacher". Those tended to be 21 year old hotties who taught the art class.

Since I was post Vatican II I got to miss the Baltimore Catechism. My religious books were of the Godspell, Jesus as a Hippie, format. The word LOVE on a page with a quotation from Psalms and a picture of a flower.
Posted by Supreme Ruler Of The Universe http://_ on September 4, 2012 at 6:21 PM · Report this
What's odd about that Seattle Times article: the headline made it seem it like it was about charter schools. It had nothing to do with charter schools.

It's just a remarkable story about a school that worked hard, to get grants, re-market itself, and serve and underserve population in Seattle. Way to go St. Therese School!
Posted by BelieveInNuances on September 4, 2012 at 9:05 PM · Report this
dwightmoodyforgetsthings 5
Being affiliated with an organization that coddles pedophiles probably hasn't helped their enrollment figures.
Posted by dwightmoodyforgetsthings on September 4, 2012 at 10:13 PM · Report this
Go figure. I always thought that Catholic schools were just better run than government schools.
Posted by floater on September 4, 2012 at 10:50 PM · Report this
Pope Peabrain 7
Catholic and education are an oxymoron.
Posted by Pope Peabrain on September 5, 2012 at 4:50 AM · Report this

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