Vouchers spike Catholic school enrollment

Catholic schools are attracting voucher students in Indiana, AP reports. Nearly 70 percent of students using the vouchers are choosing Catholic schools.

Our Lady of Hungary Catholic School in South Bend was at risk of closure because few parents could afford tuition.  Voucher students have increased enrollment by 60 percent.

The enrollment boom has forced the school to hire three more teachers. It’s also allowed all but the seventh and eighth grades to be separated into single classes. In years past, the school has combined grade levels because of low enrollment.

Catholic schools attract about 70 percent of voucher students in Ohio, which  gives vouchers to children who’d otherwise attend low-performing public schools.

Urban Catholic schools have a long history of educating children from tough neighborhoods.


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  1. It’s true that urban Catholic schools have a long history of educating students from tough neighborhoods — though of course they readily pick and choose and kick out problem students (they’re celebrated for doing so and it’s not a bad thing, but it’s something that public schools can’t do).

    But urban Catholic schools are struggling and closing. I see news items about that all the time, including here. Here in San Francisco the diocese shut down the schools that enrolled low-income children of color — one (in the Western Addition) was rescued and re-started by a wealthy benefactor, but the others are gone. The former principal of one of those schools (in the Bayview) told me forthrightly that the diocese closed the schools because of high costs and low academic performance.

    I think of that, of course, whenever I see comments claiming that urban Catholic schools are successfully educating low-income students of color. It’s another story that’s not being given to us straight.

  2. Deirdre Mundy says:

    Caroline– part of the reason that urban Catholic schools are closing is because there are no longer enough Catholics in those areas to support them!

    Traditionally, struggling Catholic schools (and most are always “just squeaking by”) can make up the difference by an appeal to the parish and alumni. Everyone digs a little deeper and the school stays open.

    BUT for a lit of these urban schools, the parish is down to 5 or 10 families who come in from the suburbs out of nostalgia, and the generation who actually WENT to the school is dying off. Throw in the new regulations that mean that Catholic charities will have to either abandon deeply help beliefs OR restrict themselves only to “strictly religious” goals as defined by the US gov, and I think we’ll see a lot more of these schools closing..

    But for now, the vouchers do allow the Catholic schools with a dying inter-city parish to keep going for the kids who depend on them.

  3. Stuart Buck says:

    Caroline, as usual, your attacks are fictionalized. If you familiarize yourself with Catholic schools, you might learn that Catholic schools are often used as the last chance for struggling students that the public schools didn’t want to serve, and that many Catholic schools view their mission precisely as trying to reach those kids.

    For example, a friend of mine taught in a Catholic school in Alabama, and said that it was well-known that his school took in lots of kids that the nearby public school kicked out (under zero tolerance policies and the like). In his experience, Catholic schools are less likely than public schools to expel kids, because they need tuition money.

    Beyond anecdotes, there is a lot of scholarly research pointing out that on average, students who go to Catholic schools are more disadvantaged than normal:


    “Indeed, the evidence points towards a potential downward bias in the estimated Catholic school effect associated with unobserved (omitted) variables that are correlated with the choice to enroll in this type of schooling. Sander and Krautmann (1995), Evans and Schwab (1995), Sander (1996) and Vella (1999) all find evidence of significant negative selection into Catholic schools implying that those who (non-randomly) enroll in this type of schooling are expected to have worse outcomes than the average individual. The direction of the bias implies that the outcome premiums found for Catholic schooling, at least in the US and Australia, cannot be accounted for by the systematic enrollment of superior students in this schooling sector by parents or via “cream skimming” by educational administrative policies.”

  4. Deirdre Mundy says:

    We got a fair number of “last chance” kids when I taught Catholic high school. Usually they did OK because of the “fresh start” the school gave them. Not that they became “wonder-students” but they kept out of trouble and passed their classes. (I think the big factors were: 1. separation from their old crowd and reputation and 2. our principal (a nun) who apparently had been a bit of a trouble maker in her youth and checked in VERY CLOSELY with these kids and 3. Teachers who cracked down before situations escalated to physical violence. )

  5. Richard Aubrey says:

    I believe that, about ten years ago, the Archdiocese of New York offered to take a thousand of the public system’s toughest kids. Or a thousand who had just been kicked out.
    It was in response to the issue of cherry-picking.
    From the point of view of the girl, the smaller boy, or the inoffensive student in general, cherrypicking would be just dandy, or, at least, close attention to the potential troublemakers and relief from policies which tend to see the perp as a vic until it’s too late.