When urban Catholic schools close, their communities become more dangerous, argues a new book, Lost Classrooms, Lost Community. Crime rates go up. “Neighborhood health” deteriorates.
The vital role of urban Catholic schools is clear, writes Fordham’s Andy Smarick
There is an extensive and convincing academic literature on the positive influence of urban Catholic schools on disadvantaged kids. They significantly improve reading scores, high school graduation rates, higher-education matriculation and graduation, and more.
We also know that they can promote civic virtues, that the U.S. Supreme Court found voucher programs constitutional, that they can be held accountable, that district reform has not led to the improvements needed, and that chartering hasn’t created enough high-quality seats yet.
When a Catholic school closes, a charter school may take over the building and fill the educational void, the authors write. But new charters do not yet “generate the same positive community benefits.”
Communities matter, concludes Smarick. “Social capital is invaluable,” and it “depends on longstanding relationships.” Just as urban renewal — clearing the slums “to make room for shiny, new public housing high-rises” — destroyed communities, clearing away old urban Catholic schools hurts at-risk neighborhoods, he writes. Reformers should “be mindful of social capital, longevity, and the value of preservation.”