While Catholic schools still close regularly, philanthropy plus innovation within independent parochial schools are reviving Catholic education, particularly in inner cities, writes Michael Sean Winters in The Tablet (Sept. 21). In the past decade, some 2,000 U.S. Catholic schools have closed, often in areas serving low-income students.
In cities, such as Atlanta, Dallas and Phoenix, where Catholic populations are growing, the demand for Catholic schooling is strong, so the church has found a way—often through scholarship programs—to establish new schools.
Another sign of hope for Catholic schools is the “growing attention they are receiving from Catholic philanthropists,” Winters adds. The group Foundations and Donors Interested in Catholic Activities (FADICA), has a working group of philanthropists from across the country who support innovations to ensure the sustainability of Catholic schools. One network drawing donors’ funding is the Cristo Rey Jesuit schools, which has programs giving students jobs in the business world, with their earnings used to offset tuition costs. Close to 100 percent of the graduates from the 26-school network go on to college. Another independent
Catholic network receiving philanthropic support is the NativityMiguel schools, aimed at middle school students.
Their distinguishing mark is a longer school year and days than public schools plus their high graduation rates (85-90 percent). Such schools are described as a “breakthrough” because they are filling the gap of serving poor students—the same populations facing the closing of Catholic schools, says Stephen Schneck of Catholic University of America’s Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies.