Tragedy: NYC loses Catholic schools

The closing of Catholic schools in New York City is a tragedy, writes Sol Stern on City Journal. The Street Stops Here by Patrick J. McCloskey explains why. McCloskey writes about Rice High School, which educates black boys in central Harlem.

No security guards or metal detectors greet them at the doors. But the boys remove their do-rags and hooded sweatshirts and presto, they become Rice men, with pressed slacks, oxford shirts and ties, and green Rice jackets. “The ritual is almost sacramental,” McCloskey writes. “The young men lose their street swagger and transform into students not much different than their peers at suburban, predominantly white Catholic schools.”

Rice’s teachers and administrators work hard to create “a counterculture of middle-class values and an ethos of hard work,”  Stern writes. That’s the  “Catholic-school advantage,” which the successful charter schools have learned from.

Though most ninth graders start out two years behind in reading and math, they gradually catch up to grade level.

Rice’s graduation rate is a legitimate 90 percent, compared with the public schools’ rate of 50 to 60 percent—despite per-pupil spending in the city’s public high schools triple that of Rice’s. Most Rice graduates go on to some form of higher education.

There are plans to convert some Brooklyn’s Catholic schools into publicly funded charter schools, as was done in D.C.  If it works, other boroughs may follow suit.

My book, Our School, is about a public, secular charter school that also has the Catholic-school advantage. The bishop once called it “the best Catholic school in San Jose.”

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  1. I’ve been saying for years, it’s not innate intelligence that makes the difference, it’s the culture. I can usually spot a Catholic-educated student in my class – their approach to education is different. They are serious students, and they have habits that propel them along to graduation.

  2. Richard Aubrey says:

    This means less competition, less showing-up, of the public skools. That means it’s all good.

  3. The Catholic schools are closing up around me, too.

    If they are doing such a good job (and I think they are very good for some students), and their tuition is certainly reasonable compared to other private schools, and parents are eager for choice, then …

    Why are they closing? What are the various Dioceses doing wrong?

    (My former Catholic school students are usually the kids who flunked out or were kicked out, and are thus train wrecks come to a stop on my doorstep.)

  4. Mr./Ms. Seasoned, the reasons for school closing seem to be mainly the demographic shift of Catholics away from the mid-Atlantic and Rust belt and the rising tuition cost.

  5. Private schools are having a very hard time where competition from charters and magnet schools is feverish. Parents are very willing to make the public school compromises for an almost-Waldorf or almost-Montessori or almost-whatever school curriculum, especially when it comes with the public school monthly cost. And the parents are also willing to let their children attend a few years of private school and then save up for college, though it’s hard to judge investments in education now with investments in cash for the future in a world where hardly anyone saves anyhow.

  6. Charles R. Williams says:

    Catholic schools are closing because of the costs. The decline in religious vocations is a good part of the reason costs have risen. A parish with a school may charge $2500 tuition but the school is a huge financial burden. And for many parents the $2500 isw unaffordable. If the parish is a new, suburban parish there may not have been money to build a school. In the inner city the issue is almost always that parishioners with the resources to support the school have relocated.

    No public school in the US can operate on $2500 per year per student.

    The public school monopoly is rooted in anti-Catholic bigotry. This is a historical fact. Poor immigrants made the sacrifices necessary to build and staff schools to protect their children from public schools that had an explicit mission to educate their children out of their faith.

  7. Define “public school monopoly” and also tell me how all those other schools exist when such a monopoly exists, too. I want to know where this “historical fact” comes from, since it’s all new to me. I thought public schools were a way to educate everyone, make better factory workers, instill secular humanism, enforce conformity in our values, and dumb down our nation, but I guess it was all about getting the Catholics to renounce the Pope. Silly me, I must have let my subscription lapse for my copies of whatever quack newsletter from which you get your reality. All along, I thought those poor immigrants wanted to keep their children away from those horrible Blacks and Hispanics and their desire to rape young white women.

    It’s so hard to keep the conspiracies straight anymore.

  8. Lightly Seasoned says:

    Oh, no. The Catholic schools around here are more like around $10K/year, which is still less expensive than other privates. We also have few/weak charters and magnets. You can’t even get half-day Kindergarten for $2500. Heavens.

    I’m not sure public schools are explicitly anti-Catholic. I remember students being bused from my elementary/middle schools to CCD classes after school back in the 70’s.

    I understand the appeal of Catholic schooling to Catholics, but you don’t have to be Catholic to enroll. I’ll bet most of those Rice students aren’t.