Philly shakes up Catholic education—again

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia announced this week that it is preparing to take the radical step of turning twenty-one of its schools over to independent management. Seventeen high schools and four special-education schools will come under the control of the recently formed Faith in the Future Foundation, which plans to bring a “more metrics-driven management structure” to a school system hemorrhaging money and enrollment. Other experiments in Catholic education, including those in New York, have given some schools more autonomy, but those arrangements generally kept ultimate control within the diocese. Archbishop Charles J. Chaput admitted to reporters that the parochial-school system needs more than fine-tuning and conceded that former Cigna Corporation chief executive Edward Hanway and his new foundation can “provide a level of creativity we wouldn’t be able to achieve on our own, and a broader level of community participation.” Indeed, Faith in the Future is developing university partnerships and digital-learning initiatives that other Catholic-school systems have been slow to embrace. Perhaps more importantly, it is probably better positioned than the Church to raise private dollars and appeal to a Catholic community agitated by dozens of school closures and a roiling clergy sex-abuse scandal. God willing, it will also be able to find an effective, dynamic Catholic-school governance model that can be replicated in other cities.

RELATED ARTICLE: “Archdiocese hands over school management to independent foundation,” by Kristen Graham, Philadelphia Inquirer, August 21, 2012

A version of this analysis appeared on the Choice Words blog.

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