Catholics dissatisfied with the parochial school system are leading a rapidly growing movement of independent Catholic schools.
In the last three years alone, the number of such schools have increased from under 30 to more than 100, according to the National Catholic Reporter (Sept. 11). Most of these schools are modest, do-it-yourself efforts started up by parents and other lay people defecting from both the public and Catholic schools.
The rate of expansion in each individual school is “phenomenal,” with enrollment doubling or tripling each year. John Allen writes that the trend is driven by two broad forces: the movement in American education toward school choice and the growth of the “restorationist” or conservative impulse in American Catholicism.
Although these independent schools may not have “Catholic” in their name and receive no recognition from a bishop or diocese, they have a strongly orthodox Catholic curricula combined with an emphasis on classical learning (including Latin). Leaders of such schools argue that the mainstream Catholic school system is compromised by the secular culture and too bureaucratized. Many of the parents who send their children to these schools were alarmed by sex education programs in the Catholic parochial system.
There is a general distrust between the leaders of the new schools and church officials; some don’t even register their school with a larger umbrella group, known as Independent Schools in Service to the Church, because they might attract the attention of the local bishop. Many of these new institutions often serve families that practice homeschooling.
(National Catholic Reporter, P.O. Box 419281, Kansas City, MO 64141)