Church vs. charters

Boston’s charter schools won’t be able to rent unused Catholic schools, writes Steve Bailey, a Boston Globe columnist. The church doesn’t want the competition.

Wal-Mart would never help Target locate a store in the same neighborhood. Now the Archdiocese of Boston, in theearly stages of an ambitious effort to rebuild Catholic education, has decided to stop being quite so accommodating to its competition, charter schools.

Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley “has recruited a corps of top business leaders to raise big money to expand the Catholic schools, which have seen enrollment in Eastern Massachusetts plummet to about 50,000 students from 153,000 in 1965.”

In a policy shift, the archdiocese has decided to stop writing new leases or selling its vacant facilities to Massachusetts charter schools.

Charters are free while tuition at Catholic schools runs from $2,500 to $4,000 a year, Bailey writes.

High-scoring Boston Collegiate Charter School, which has 1,300 students on a waiting list, had hoped to buy a vacant Catholic school in its neighborhood. The archdiocese won’t sell.

(Boston Collegiate), founded in 1998 in South Boston, has about 400 students in grades five through 12. Last month, 573 kids were in a lottery for 66 spots, an admissions rate that approaches some of the nation’s elite colleges.

What the school needs most is room to grow. “Our dream is to build a gymnasium,” (executive director Kathleen) Sullivan says. Students now shoot at a single basket on a cramped strip of asphalt out back; they perform Shakespeare in the school’s entrance foyer.

The former Catholic school building will remain empty while the charter school turns away eager students.

Via Education Gadfly.

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  1. wayne martin says:

    Wonder how long it will take the Charter School proponents to demand a change in the law that forces the Church to have to lease its property to them?

  2. I’m not Catholic, so I don’t care one way or the other about the survival of Catholic schools, but this absolutely makes sense from their point of view. Surely nobody could reasonably object to it.

    The purpose of the Catholic schools is to provide a CATHOLIC education to children, not just to educate them. If the schools didn’t give the church a way to indoctrinate the children, they wouldn’t be serving the church’s core need to make more people follow its doctrine and make more people a part of the church. The general education role of the Catholic schools is secondary to that function.

    If the Catholic schools didn’t believe they’d ever be able to grow again and use those schools, I suspect they would make a business decision to sell or rent those to charter schools. But since the church DOES plan to “retake lost market share,” the last thing it wants is to help build a viable competitor in the meantime.

  3. in less time than it took Paul Revere to spot the signal from Old North Church in April of yore, a market answer should emerge: a third party to buy the vacant facility and sell/lease it to schools.

    Troubled by the conclusion that the best way to reimforce the educational mission is to hobble charters. Clearly the next step would be move aggresssively against well-functioning district schools to “retake market share” of students.

    For those not in the business world, yes, even competitors sell facilities to each other.

  4. Of course competitors sell facilities to each other — when it suits their own purposes, but not to help the competitor. If the Catholic Church were taking offensive steps to stop charters, that would be objectionable. But it’s not the least bit objectionable for the church to decline to make space available in order not to help competition at the same time the church is making a move to increase enrollment. It’s a very rational and understandable position. Why is it so difficult to understand that the church doesn’t have exactly the same objective that the charters do? Or that we might favor?

  5. Walter E. Wallis says:

    My great grandfather was sure the Pope had battleships ready to sail into New York Harbor if Al Smith won.

  6. Chris is right. Parishioners will be reluctant to “pony up” to fund the cost of keeping closed Catholic schools empty — especially when they could be sold to earn funds needed for religious work. If the Church can get as much money for old schools by turning them into housing or bars, fine. Otherwise, sell or lease them to whatever organization will pay the most and use the money to support the parochial schools that remain open.

  7. Reality Czech says:

    Perhaps the first few condemnation proceedings against empty Catholic schools will change the hierarchy’s attitude.