Catholic schools got a shout out, of sorts, in the opinion page of The Wall St. Journal Sept. 30. The column praised Catholic schools for all their achievements but also lamented their increasing struggles.
“Catholic education in the United States is in dire straits,” wrote Richard Riordan, former mayor of Los Angeles and the founding president of the Los Angeles Catholic Education Foundation. Citing a recent study by Loyola Marymount University, he noted that 98 percent of Catholic high school students graduate and most of them continue on to college. But despite the academic success of these schools, enrollment is down and many Catholic schools are closing. Today’s 2 million students attending 6,900 Catholic schools is a far cry from the 5.5 million students attending more than 13,000 U.S. Catholic schools in the early 1960s .
Riordan said this trend is not the result of a lack of demand but of the inability of parents to pay tuition.
That’s why his foundation just announced a campaign to raise $100 million for Catholic schools in the Los Angeles area — in the hope of providing Catholic school scholarships to local students in need.
Los Angeles Archbishop Jose H. Gomez likewise noted the great achievements of Catholic schools coupled by their growing unattainable cost for so many. He also credited the Catholic Educational Foundation for making a Catholic education available to so many who would not have been able to afford it. He described the foundation as one of the church’s ”most important social programs” noting that in the last 24 years it provided 120,000 tuition awards totaling $108 million to the poorest families in the Los Angeles Archdiocese.
In his column in The Tidings, the archbishop said:”Our schools face challenges. The most serious come from 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 the mission to help Catholic schools should be shared by all Catholics. ”Let’s work together to grow our Catholic schools, to expand into new areas where schools are needed, and to raise the money we need to give a Catholic education to every student who wants it,” he wrote.
Riordan’s message was similar: “Each of us, no matter what career we have followed, has an obligation to educate the next generation. The education needed for success in our world necessarily includes the basics of reading, writing and math. It must also include the ability to reason, to make good judgments, and to be responsible for our planet and all its peoples. These have been the fundamentals of our Catholic schools for over a century. We must guarantee they are here for generations to come.”