Creighton educators point way to greater affordability for Catholic schools
A new book published by the National Catholic Educational Association and written by two Creighton University professors proposes a new future for Catholic elementary and secondary schools founded on greater affordability and innovative programming.
In “Writing a New Story for Catholic Schools” by the Rev. Thomas Simonds, SJ, EdD, and Ronald Fussell, EdD, the Creighton University education professors assert that Catholic parents today seek a high-quality education for their children that prepares them for the job market. Some parents, they say, still seek schools with a strong Catholic religious formation component, but a larger number of parents are focused on more practical concerns. The challenge for Catholic schools, the authors say, is to innovatively address the interests and needs of parents and students while also providing religious formation with a tuition price that is affordable for families.
Making Catholic schools affordable is an ongoing challenge. Vestiges of the anti-Catholicism prevalent in the United States through at least the 1960s continue today in the form of state laws and accepted models of educating children and youth in the United States.
Simonds and Fussell, however, see light ahead on three counts as innovative partnerships between Catholic school systems and the private sector have emerged, Catholic schools have redesigned their governance models, and the concept of “school choice” has gained ground in the public square.
Examples of partnerships between the private sector and Catholic education cited by the authors include the Cristo Rey network of schools and the Big Shoulders Fund in Chicago, Illinois. Employers and citizens alike, Simonds and Fussell say, want well-educated young people to move into neighborhoods, take on employment opportunities, and participate intelligently in America’s democracy. The partnership between Catholic schools and the private sector is seen as a win-win for everyone involved.
New governance models designed and adopted by Catholic elementary and secondary schools are seen as addressing the issue of affordability. For example, regional Catholic schools use economy of scale to reduce costs and the number of administrators. Using public-school transportation, approved by the United States Supreme Court, regional Catholic schools can also expand their reach and fill empty seats in existing school buildings rather than building costly new school buildings.
Full parental choice in how their children are educated continues to grow in the United States, and an increase of full parental choice in education holds by far the greatest possibility for opening Catholic school enrollment to a larger number of families and students, the authors say.
Simonds and Fussell provide numerous resources in their book that Catholic educators, parents, and interested persons can use to engage in democratic advocacy for full parental choice in the education of their children.
“Through informed advocacy, perhaps the vestiges of anti-Catholicism currently enshrined in state law may finally be eliminated so that all parents of all faith traditions may legitimately choose the school that is best for their children,” says Simonds.
Creighton’s online master’s degree in education was recently ranked eighth nationally by U.S. News and World Report.