Church schools v. charter schools

Church schools v. charter schools

Is the Archdiocese of Boston in competition with charter schools? That’s the premise of a Boston Globe column by Steve Bailey on Sunday entitled, The church vs. charters.

It is not the quality of education alone that is most important, but hearing the Gospel and encountering Jesus Christ.

His premise is that now the Archdiocese has embarked on an ambitious plan to revitalize Catholic education it is no longer going to be as accommodating to competing institutions. The problem is that Bailey thinks of the Archdiocese as a business, not as an institution that competes, rather than cooperates with anyone who can advance the same vision.

Of course, I think he can be forgiven for doing so since that’s been the modus operandi in the Archdiocese for a long time. I’ve heard several examples of people who wanted to buy or lease an empty school or other building from the archdiocese and were either denied outright or had the building sold out from under them to either secular or non-Catholic groups. And we’re talking about solid and devout Catholics willing to pay market rates and with solid plans for success.

But I think there’s been a sea change in the archdiocese with the coming of Cardinal O’Malley and the new vicar general and new chancellor. You don’t turn a ship the size and age of the archdiocese overnight, but I’m hearing from people around the Boston area how the chancery is changing its institutional attitude.

So if the Archdiocese is less willing to lease to secular schools, that’s ultimately a good thing from a Catholic point of view. While charter schools may be better than public schools, in the end they don’t advance the mission of the Church which is to spread the Gospel.

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  • What is the purpose of Catholic schools, and is running a school system the best way to meet those goals?  Given children from families with similar levels of religious observance, do Catholic schools produce better Catholics?  If the answer is “yes” (and frankly I’ve seen little to convince me that it is) then we need parishes to support schools to the degree that all parish children can attend them.  If they do not, then we need to pour our money into other things including good religious ed programs to teach our people about their faith and good public schools so that all the children in the community can get a good education, not just those whose parents can afford private schools.

  • What I’m looking forward to is the sense (from the parish and parish school) that homeschoolers are not seen as competing with Catholic schools.  Homeschooling is less expensive, but there are resources I’d love to share with the schools and would be willing to pay for, such as foreign language instruction and art (these are my annual instructional bugaboos).  And I don’t homeschool JUST because it’s less expensive—it’s better for our family altogether.  Homeschooling will never be popular where there are reasonable Catholic schools, because school is easier; so why not be friends and make cooperation easier?