How To Save Catholic Schools
The video above, from Church Militant, outlines the challenges facing Catholic schools today. It should be noted that Catholics schools have been in consistent decline for fifty years! The COVID-19 pandemic has only served to highlight and accelerate the problem. The chief causes of the decline in Catholic schools are listed as follows…
- Basic education no better or worse than public schools
- Failure to instill Catholic formation in students
- A loss of faith among the Catholic laity
- Church leaders unwilling to pass on Church teaching about the theological problems associated with public schools (Pope Pius IX, Syllabus of Errors 45, 47, 48)
The video above outlines the results of these listed causes. It’s catastrophic! In the course of fifty years, the number of Catholics schools has been reduced to half, while the general population of Catholics has only grown. Clearly, we have hit a crisis point, and continuing to deny the severity of the problem, and the need to radically adapt, will only make things worse.
Most failures are the result of not adapting to the times and needs of the people. The parochial system, of five-day schools, is failing for a reason. It’s not practical anymore. It no longer meets the needs of most Catholic families. Cost is the biggest issue. So the center of any adaption must be cost containment. The other issues above must also be addressed. However, I think the most overlooked issue is what the Catechism teaches us about the education of children in the first place…
Parents’ respect and affection are expressed by the care and attention they devote to bringing up their young children and providing for their physical and spiritual needs. As the children grow up, the same respect and devotion lead parents to educate them in the right use of their reason and freedom. As those first responsible for the education of their children, parents have the right to choose a school for them which corresponds to their own convictions. This right is fundamental. As far as possible parents have the duty of choosing schools that will best help them in their task as Christian educators. Public authorities have the duty of guaranteeing this parental right and of ensuring the concrete conditions for its exercise.Catechism of the catholic church, paragraphs 2228-2229
Notice the catechism puts parents, not schools or parishes, as the center of a child’s education. Parish schools can play a support role in this, but never replace the role of the parents. Because of the changes in modern society, most not for the better, the parental role in education has been diminished over the last 150 years. Education has taken an almost “assembly line” approach, and sadly, over the same amount of time, Catholic schools have followed suit as well. This may have worked for a while, but it’s obviously not working anymore. I think the problem centers primarily around parental involvement. These days, too many parents send their kids to school, expecting somebody else to teach them everything from reading, writing, and arithmetic, to history, religion and morals. It’s probably because that’s how their parents dealt with them as well. It’s no surprise then, why the whole thing is finally collapsing before our eyes. I think the solution involves more parental involvement in the education of their children. I believe we can find an answer in what some Evangelicals have been doing for decades now, with phenomenal success. It’s a combination to two things, linked together in a practical approach. That is a combination of Homeschooling & Homeschool Academies. This is how it works…
The Homeschool Academy
The Homeschool Academy is a hybrid school. It consists of regular in-class sessions two to three days a week. Three-days a week for grades K-6, and two-days a week for grades 7-12. This allows the school to operate five days a week at a reduced budget, with less teachers on any given day. This allows for lower tuition rates, which can be supplemented by the parish (as needed) for lower income families. Teachers may be certified, but its not always necessary, which may also help with tuition rates. Due to the staggering of classes based on grade level, not as many teachers will be needed. The Homeschool Academy environment will also induce a greater number of parent-volunteers in families that don’t need two incomes.
- Grades K-6 in class attendance (Monday, Wednesday, Friday)
- Grades 7-12 in class attendance (Tuesday, Thursday)
Students are capable of rotating classes, based upon subject, from about third-grade upward. This may help with teacher adjustment, switching back and forth from younger children to older teens. For example, some math teachers can just teach math. Some English teachers can just teach English, etc. Some religion teachers can just teach religion. This allows the parish school to keep a tighter leash on religious instruction, to insure consistency and reduce errors.
On the off-days, when students are at home, they complete a homeschool curriculum with the help of their parents. This involves the parents in the education of their children, particularly the younger children on their off-days, while simultaneously allowing lower-income parents the opportunity to work during school hours, if needed, on the in-class school days. Since older teens will be more disciplined in completing their homework on their own, working parents can still work while their older children are at home.
Most parish schools are already setup for for K-8 education, and then they send their students on to a diocesan high school. These smaller parish school can be easily renovated for an alternating K-12 academy experience, keeping that tuition income with the parish all the way through high school. What do we do with the diocesan high-school campuses then? Simple. Convert them into Catholic community colleges!
Catholic Homeschooling is a growing trend in the United States. It will continue to grow with or without parish involvement. The Homeschool Academy allows a parish to be more involved in this. Catholic Homseschooling is defined as the education of children that takes place entirely at home, guided exclusively by Catholic parents with some form of Catholic formation. The students have no in-class time for core subjects. Most of the time, parents decide what curriculum is best for their children and how they will follow it. Sometimes, however, homeschooling parents are open to help from their church. When this is the case, parish Homeschooling Academies can provide as much, or as little, as the parents want, with tuition and fees adjusted accordingly based on how much of the academy’s services are used. Most homeschooling parents will simply be interested in sports and/or the arts. Some might be interested in using the same Homeschooling Academy curriculum. Most will grade assignments and tests themselves. However, a small few may be interested in having assignments and tests graded by the academy’s faculty. Again, tuition and fees can be adjusted based on what homeschooling families decide they want. This makes the Academy’s involvement affordable, and keeps these families connected to parish education in at last some way.