Catholic school system shrinks despite success

Catholic schools outperform public schools, says education expert Myron Lieberman. Yet, the number of Catholic schools that are closing continues to increase.

Catholic officials in Kalamazoo announced last week that they will be closing St. Joseph School. This is the second school to close in the city in two years, reported the Kalamazoo Gazette.

The trend is the same, if not more severe, across the country. In the Archdiocese of Detroit 15 schools are closing this spring, the Archdiocese of St. Louis is closing 10 schools; Chicago is shutting 23 schools; and Newark, nine. They are mostly urban schools.

The urban schools had once catered to the large Catholic populations living in the city-centers. Most have moved out. In addition, costs have increased. Previously, the Catholic school system could rely on keeping costs down by pay the teaching religious sisters, brothers and priests a token salary. The majority of teachers are now laypeople.

The Catholic school system in the U.S. started in the 19th century. By 1960, 5.3 million children went to Catholic schools. In 2003-04, only 2.5 million children were enrolled in Catholic education. These numbers are largely in suburban Catholic schools, which reportedly continue to thrive.

Lieberman said Catholic schools outperform public schools for due to their structure, discipline, high expectations, sense of mission, and the emphasis on parent involvement.

"They do it with a lot less money than public schools ... and with comparable students," the chairman of the Education Policy Institute told the Kalamazoo Gazette.

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