Will New York's mayor henceforth be known as Michael "Noah" Bloomberg? Perhaps, if the bishop of the Brooklyn diocese, Nicholas DiMarzio, could rename him. DiMarzio recently likened the former financial guru to the Ark's captain for throwing the diocese a "lifeline" after the two agreed on a plan to convert four struggling Catholic schools to charters. The diocese announced earlier this year that fourteen Catholic elementary schools in Brooklyn and Queens would close in May due to declining enrollments and empty coffers. Fortunately, hizzoner and Pope's representative have an example to emulate: Washington, D.C., which saw the conversion of seven Catholic schools to charters last year. New York's plan follows a similar strategy: The city would lease the buildings, current students would be guaranteed seats at the new school, and all things religious would be removed. But the plan, to our mind, is bittersweet (separate and apart from the solely bitter news that ten Catholic schools in Brooklyn will apparently close altogether). While conversion will save these four schools, receiving public dollars means eliminating the religious grounding that makes parochial schools unique. Nor is Bloomberg exactly a saint; his high-powered fundraising for his own public schools likely squeezed out private dollars that might have kept these Catholic schools Catholic. But as one parent explained, if they can't keep the schools open as is, going charter "is the next best thing."
"Mayor and Bishop Propose a Plan to Save Schools," by Javier Hernandez, New York Times, February 8, 2009
"N.Y. Catholic Schools Explore Conversion," The Associated Press, February 7, 2009
"Catholic schools set to close may get second lease on life as charter schools, Mayor says," by Kathleen Lucadamo, New York Daily News, February 7, 2009