In the United States, Catholic schools educate more than two million students who come from affluent, middle class and economically challenged neighborhoods. Since their beginnings, Catholic schools have served many ethnic communities such as the Irish, Italian, German, Latino, African-American and Polish immigrants. These schools have also been in areas where there are underprivileged children such as New York, Boston, New Orleans, Baltimore and Chicago.
With the implementation of school choice programs designed for culturally and economically disadvantaged children, Catholic schools in more than twenty states and or school districts now receive public funding. That these church-related schools receive public funds is, however, a cause of concern for some who perceive this arrangement as detrimental to the educational choice movement. However, studies have revealed that this fear of Catholic schools’ preventing others from receiving the benefits of the school choice movement is unfounded.
Catholic school funding is not out of proportion
Catholic Education Partners studied data for 16 scholarship tax credit and 12 voucher programs that were run in 20 states. These credits and programs amounted to $1.8 billion of the $2.2 billion allotted for nationwide private school choice. The majority of Catholic schools among these 20 states that were surveyed showed voucher program enrollments of under 40% of their total enrollment. Therefore, these enrollments are in proportion to those of other private schools that receive public funds.
Catholic Schools enable students to succeed
With such public funding, Catholic schools contribute greatly to the success of many economically disadvantaged students. For instance, 99.1 percent of students in Catholic high schools graduate and 84.7 percent go on to college. One reason for this success may be that no matter whether students are in the inner city or the suburbs, the philosophy of Catholic schools is to instruct and develop the whole person.
Enabling children from low-income areas to attend Catholic schools has done much to improve their moral and civic character since Catholic school teachers are not restricted by state mandates and have myriad opportunities to address character development. By working with students, the teachers in Catholic schools demonstrate their concern for the students as individuals. In numerous cases, such character development and improvement have been shown to correlate with students’ scholastic successes.
Having worked in both public and religious schools, Executive Director of the Department of Secondary Schools at the National Catholic Educational Association, Philip B. Robey contends that more data-oriented public schools lose sight of developing the individuality of each student; an essential part of educating. Catholic schools strive to educate the whole child and are successful for doing so.