The Catholic School Deficit
THE SOURCE: “Can Catholic Schools Be Saved?” by Peter Meyer, in Education Next, Spring 2007.
The number of Roman Cath-olics in the United States, now nearly 77 million, has grown by more than 70 percent in the past four decades, but in the same period the nationwide network of Catholic schools has shrunk by more than half. Some 600 parochial schools have closed in the last six years alone, and the student population receiving a Catholic education has decreased by nearly 300,000, or 11 percent. Everything but a plague of locusts has afflicted the nation’s Catholic schools, writes Peter Meyer, former news editor of Life magazine. Catholic schools will have to become expert fundraisers to survive. “And marketers. And promoters. And lobbyists. And miracle workers.”
Studies by scholars at the University of Chicago, Northwestern, the Brookings Institution, and Harvard have all concluded that Catholic schools, on average, do a better job of educating children, especially poor and minority students, than public schools do, Meyer notes. Parochial schools never had to go back to basics because they never left them. Catholic schools have always required correct grammar, uniforms, homework, good posture, proper skirt lengths, and a balanced lunch, including peas and carrots, Meyer writes.