01: Declining Catholic school enrollment and the closing of inner-city parochial schools are largely due to the skeletal structure of these institutions that turn away young teachers and burden graying administrators, according to a recent study in Commonweal magazine (March 25).
The steady closings of these schools and the reversal of growing enrollment of just a decade ago has been attributed to everything from the sex abuse crisis to the movement of Catholics to the Sunbelt. But in a Boston College survey of 384 inner-city Catholic schools nationwide, the aging and non-innovative structure of these schools is found to be the major cause for the state of decline.
The study found that most of the schools are out of touch with their students: they are staffed almost exclusively by females, and that a high percentage of the women religious school principals (representing 40 percent of the principals) are over age 50. Principals reported being overburdened by multiple and complex tasks, and only a few schools had professionals on the staff, such as counselors and speech therapists.
Rising costs and heavy dependence on tuition push many schools into a cycle of increased tuition rates and declining enrollment, leading to the school closings that are now taking place. But there were some bright spots. Forty five percent of all the schools reported that non-tuition income–such as private and corporate donations and government grants– increased between 1996 and 2001, with 40 percent reporting that it held steady.
The higher the poverty level of students in a given school, the greater the increase of non-tuition income. Such educational innovations as extended-day programs (providing after-school academic and social activities), middle school departmentalization, and mentoring programs for novice teachers were also found to be widespread in the schools.
(Commonweal, 475 Riverside Dr., New York, NY 10115)
02: Women rabbis in Conservative Judaism experience wide disparities in positions and salaries compared to their male counterparts, reports a study commissioned by the Rabbinical Assembly, the rabbinic arm of the Conservative movement.
Moment magazine (April) reports that the study found that a large majority of women who hold pulpits (83 percent) head small congregations with fewer than 250 families. All of the largest and most prestigious congregations–those with more than 500 families–have male rabbis at their head. Men earn a mean of $40,000 more per year than their female counterparts. Even when men and women hold similar positions in small congregations, women earn between $10,000 and $21,000 a year less than men.
An overwhelming majority (91 percent) of the women surveyed said they don’t want the big jobs that pay the most or to be the senior rabbis in the largest congregations. In fact, many don’t want congregation positions at all, preferring teaching or community work. Approximately one-third opt to work part-time, limiting their positions for high paying jobs.
Writer Francine Klagsburn adds that anecdotal evidence points to bias against women among the congregations and board members with whom they interview, and that women receive fewer invitations for interviews from synagogue boards than do male rabbis.
(Moment, 4115 Wisconsin Ave., NW, Suite 102, Washington, DC 20016)
03: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormon) is reported to be the fastest growing church in the U.S., as well as rising to the fourth spot in the country’s top ten churches, according to the 2005 Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches.
The yearbook reports a 1.71 percent growth rate for the LDS church in 2003 for a total membership of 5.5 million in the U.S. The largest churches continue to be the Catholic Church, the Southern Baptists, and United Methodists, with the Mormons bumping the Church of God in Christ out of last year’s number four slot to fifth place.
The Orthodox Church in America grew to one million-members and is now included on the list of the 25 largest U.S. church bodies.