.- Catholic schools make a “major contribution” to the Los Angeles region’s social fabric and to the common good of the country as a whole, Archbishop José H. Gomez said as he encouraged Catholics to be generous in supporting their school systems.
“Education remains essential to our Church’s mission. Catholic schools have given generations of immigrants and minority groups a way out of poverty and a chance to become leaders in our civic and cultural life, he said in a Sept. 23 column in the archdiocesan paper The Tidings.
“We need to make sure this Catholic mission of hope and uplift continues for our newest Americans and in the face of new challenges in our cities.”
He said the “most serious” challenge to Catholic schools is meeting the economic needs of families who can’t afford the costs of Catholic school tuition. “So we need to find a way to help,” he said.
Archbishop Gomez noted the responsibility of clergy, religious, and lay people to work together to grow Catholic schools and to expand into new areas.
He also praised the accomplishments of the Catholic school systems.
“What our students are achieving is really amazing. And this story is being repeated in Catholic schools all across our country,”
The Catholic schools of the Los Angeles region serve 80,000 students. They constitute the third largest school system in California. Nearly 70 percent of students are ethnic minorities and more than one in three come from families living below the poverty line. Catholic schools have more than two million students nationwide, 15 percent of whom are not Catholic.
“I have hoped for a long time that our politicians and civic leaders would start paying more attention to Catholic schools in their search for solutions to our nation’s education problems. Because studies over the years keep concluding that Catholic schools provide better educational outcomes at a lower cost than public schools,” Archbishop Gomez said.
Each public school student, on average, is educated at a cost of $10,300 a year, while Catholic schools spend only $7,000 per student. They graduate 99 percent of their students, compared to the 73 percent graduation rate in public schools. Catholic schools have higher college entrance rates and better SAT scores, especially among low-income and economically disadvantaged students, the archbishop said.
The Archdiocese of Los Angeles’ Catholic Education Foundation recently received a $11.3 million endowment from the Frank and Blanche Seaver Trust, which will ensure tuition for at least 600 students in addition to the 7,300 awards already provided.
Inspired by the new grant, the archdiocese has launched an initiative headed by former Los Angeles mayor Richard Riordan to raise $100 million for Catholic schools. The initiative could help another 5,000 students annually. The initiative asks supporters to make provisions in their trusts or wills for the education foundation.
There are 9,000 students on waiting lists for the schools in the archdiocese.
Archbishop Gomez asked for prayers, especially to the Blessed Virgin Mary, to help Catholics to be “generous in supporting the Church’s educational mission of teaching and proclaiming hope in the name of her Son.”