A couple of reports last week reanimated the debate about what to do with Catholic schools, which have been hemorrhaging students for the last couple of decades. The new challenge—“one of their most complex… yet,” writes Sean Cavanagh in Education Week—is charter schools. One, by former RAND economist Richard Buddin, was published by the Cato Institute; the other, by Abraham Lackman, a scholar-in-residence at the Albany Law School, in Albany, New York, is not out yet, but was summarized by Cavanagh in the Ed Week story. Writes Cavanagh,
Many charter schools tout attributes similar to those offered by the church's schools, such as disciplined environments, an emphasis on personal responsibility and character development, and distinctive instructional and curricular approaches.
And Buddin, whose report is more broadly aimed at measuring the impact of charters on all private schools, says,
[C]harter schools are pulling large numbers of students from the private education market and present a potentially devastating impact on the private education market, as well as a serious increase in the financial burden on taxpayers.
As both Adam Emerson and Kathleen Porter-Magee have already pointed out, Catholic schools were in decline long before charters came on the scene. Between 1960, when Catholics educated one out of every eight American school-age children (5.2 million) and 1990, when charter schools first came on the scene, 30 percent of the 13,000 Catholic schools in the U.S. closed (with enrollment plummeting to 2.5 million). In fact, since the pace...