Catholic schools change to survive

Hard hit by demographic changes and competition from charter schools, Catholic schools are trying new strategies to survive, while remaining true to their religious mission, write Kelly Robson and Andy Smarick in Education Next.

A Cristo Rey student works at a medical center in Baltimore. Photo: Cristo Rey

A Cristo Rey student works at a medical center in Baltimore. Photo: Cristo Rey

Urban Catholic school students – especially those from low-income, minority families — “are more likely to graduate from high school, attend college, earn higher wages, and engage in pro-social behaviors like voting and volunteerism,” they write.

At its mid-1960s peak, Catholic schools educated 5.6 million students in approximately 13,000 schools, they write. That’s down to  fewer than 2 million students in 6,500 Catholic schools. Many urban schools have closed.

Now, school consortia are helping Catholic schools tackle common problems and achieve economies of scale.

Private school management organizations, nonprofits that manage a set of schools, also provide economies of scale and educational expertise.

Girls at Lourdes Academy, a Notre Dame ACE Academy . Photo: University of Notre Dame

Girls at Lourdes Academy, a Notre Dame ACE Academy . Photo: University of Notre Dame

Technology is helping boost engagement — and achievement — while reducing costs. Seton Education Partners is helping Catholic schools use blended learning effectively.

Another cost-saving model known as “micro-schooling” splits “students’ time between classroom, home, and online learning,” write Robson and Smarick.

In addition, voucher programs, tax-credit scholarships, and education savings accounts are helping lower-income parents afford a Catholic education for their children.

NH overrides school choice veto

New Hampshire parents will get help paying for private school or homeschooling. The Legislature voted to override Gov. John Lynch’s veto of a new parental choice tax credit.

Businesses will receive an 85 percent tax credit for donations to scholarship organizations, which would distribute the scholarships for students to attend private or religious schools. The money could also be used to defray the cost of a home-school education.

The scholarships could only go to families earning less than 300 percent of the federal poverty level – about $70,000 for a family of four.

The program would be limited to $4 million in scholarships in the first year, then $6 million the next year and $8 million the third year.


Tax credits for homeschoolers?

Room for Debate asks if homeschooling parents should get tax credits to cover their costs. Conservative Republicans say they’ll require states to offer a credit, though it’s not clear what form it will take. Currently, only Louisiana, Illinois and Minnesota offer some tax relief to homeschoolers.

Several debaters argue credits will come with regulations, such as testing, which some parents will see as intrusive. Some parents will prefer to keep their independence, especially as the credits’ value probably will be limited. But some will be interested.

The Home School Legal Defense Association, proposes a $500 credit for all parents who spend their own money for tuition, tutors, books, curricula, computers and the like, writes William Estrada, the group’s counsel. Public school parents who supplement their children’s education expenses would be included. It could end up as a tax credit for parents of school-aged children. Not that there’ s anthing wrong with that.

Your thoughts?