After much poking and prodding, supporters of Catholic schools may finally be springing into action. As we (amongst others) pointed out last year, these schools are essential options for low-income and minority students in urban areas, but have been disappearing at an alarming rate. Over 2,000 Catholic schools have closed since 1990, most of those in the last eight years. It is music to our ears to hear that some dioceses and their communities across the country are rising to the challenge. "It was taken for granted for a long time that Catholic schools would always be there," explains Dr. Karen M. Ristau, president of the National Catholic Education Association. "People are beginning to realize that this is a false assumption." Out: cries of poverty, declining enrollment, and pessimism. In: community involvement, better financial management, and a renewed energy to solve the mounting problems stacked up against these educational jewels. Most notably, these efforts have focused on redefining the governance arrangements of parish schools; instead of putting the administrative burden solely on the shoulders of an overworked priest or nun, dioceses are enlisting parents, alumni, and community members to play a larger role. But shrinkage continues to occur on many fronts and these initiatives are largely small and local. We're cheered by this news, but these efforts may be too little, too late.
"For Catholic Schools, Crisis and Catharsis," By Paul Vitello and Winnie Hu, The New York Times, January 17, 2009