Category Archives: Proclaim

Three Tips for Summer Rejuvenation

The following blog was contributed by Jill Annable, executive director for academic excellence at the National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA).

“Trust. You do not have to know it all.” The words startled me. I was merely stepping out of noon Mass alongside an NCEA member superintendent while on a diocesan visit. The pastor stopped us in our tracks, pointed at me and said those words: “Trust. You do not have to know it all.” He felt it on his heart to tell me and I was reminded that the Holy Spirit speaks to us in this way if we are willing to listen. I did not personally know him and he was unaware of my visit, but his words were exactly what I needed.

Days later, I am still reflecting on its truth. For the past 15 months, we have each felt the pressure to know a little bit of everything, in fields well beyond education, in order to serve the families of our schools. For all of us collectively moving at this cheetah’s pace, what comes next?

We rest. We pray in thanksgiving. Reflect. Rejuvenate. Unable to slow your brain and unsure where to begin? Let’s focus on three strategies:

1. Put up the email vacation responder.

We all know you didn’t take any family vacation last summer. Instead, you were likely on weekly calls with your county health department and speed-writing a pandemic plan. You delivered a successful school year full of meaningful family partnership and academic excellence. We all recognize you cannot actually walk away from your inbox for eight solid weeks, but you can give yourself the mental permission to use an email vacation responder. Looking for an example? Try this one adapted from Michele Watson, principal of Holy Spirit Catholic School in Overland Park, Kansas, which reads:

We are all on a well-deserved and most needed summer break. Our summer hours are ___. I will be responding to email and voicemails intermittently throughout the summer. If you need something outside of our summer hours, please call ___.

It’s hard to argue with its honesty, and its message still attends to its recipients. Encourage your faculty and colleagues to follow suit.

2. Read for pleasure.

Last summer, each hour brought a new layer of crisis that seemingly required immediate reaction. We constantly scanned news feeds and obscure education blogs. In contrast, what’s on this summer’s reading list? In light of its five year anniversary, come back to encyclical letter Laudato Si’ while lying in a hammock. Ponder Philosophy 101 by Socrates for a few minutes each morning. Indulge in a mindless fictional summer mystery with your toes in the sand.

And if you must, read specifically in relation to your ministry in Catholic education. The NCEA bookstore has you covered.

3. Don’t know everything.

Hide your phone for the night. Eat outdoors. Sleep in. Skip the beauty routine. Laugh. Dodge the nightly news once or twice. Take the long route on a walk. Read the extra bedtime story your grandkids beg for. Order the double scoop. Most importantly, rejoice in the acceptance that none of us were called to know or do it all. And when the slower pace is difficult, turn to the Lord for help. Consider Psalm 139:4 as a good starting place: “Even before a word is on my tongue, Lord, You know it all.” Let Him carry you.

In time, the sounds and smells of back-to-school will trigger us back to the pace we know and love. Meanwhile, in this moment of pause and deep breath, we are reminded that none of us are useful to His work in Catholic education if we are tired and weary. Thank you for delivering one of the most remarkable school years to date. Enjoy the blessings that summer brings.

Marketing Your School Is Easier Than You Think

The following blog was contributed by Margaret Kaplow, director of marketing communications, public relations and publications manager at the National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA).

Tell your story. How many times have you heard that? If you have a finger in marketing at your school, you have heard this plenty. The good news is there are stories to tell in every school and NCEA has a cadre of stories you can use as you please. This blog post is not a Marketing 101 refresher, but more a signpost pointing in the direction of good stories to tell.

Good news stories attract new enrollment, fundraising opportunities, help with retention, local business partnerships, alumni interest and support and much more.  Your stories are the best way to market your school. Whether you have a part-time volunteer parent or a full-time marketing team, marketing content can be easy to find.

Start with a quick review of your school’s channels for communication. They include:

  • Website
  • Email
  • Social Media
  • Print

Once they are up to date, you’re ready to tell the good news stories of your school community. For instance:

  • Was your school open for in-person classes when other schools were not? Make sure everyone knows that and publicly thank your teachers, staff and administrators who made that happen.
  • The fact that your school has applied to be a Blue Ribbon or Green Ribbon school or for any other local or national recognition needs to be announced to your school community, just as it will be when your school is awarded the honor.
  • The number of graduates entering highly regarded high schools or moving on to college or vocational schools needs to be shared.
  • The ratio of teachers to students in your school might be the information that sways families considering Catholic school for their children.
  • The number of service projects and the names of the organizations can go a long way to helping your community understand the importance of service in Catholic education.
  • Do you have regular Masses for your school? Post the days and times and invite the community and prospective families.
  • Introducing new curriculum? How about sharing that on all your channels?
  • A schedule of professional development dates and titles tells prospective families that your school is engaged and relevant.  

There are plenty of good news stories to go around in the halls and classrooms, athletic fields and courts of your school. But if you are looking for other ideas, NCEA has some to consider: 

  • For 20 years the NAEP results have showed that Catholic schools consistently outperform public and other private schools in national assessments. Your entire community, current and prospective, needs to know this.
  • The Catholic Schools Week Year-Round Marketing Kit is a great tool to help your school devise a marketing plan that can be worked all through the school year. It also contains infographics that can be posted to your channels.
  • The data brief on New Students in Catholic Schools contains data to make your marketing message stand out for enrollment, retention and activism. This is also a great source of data on parent satisfaction.
  • Distribute the link to the NCEA Book Store to your students’ families so they can access some of the same books and resources being read and used by faculty and staff. 
  • The infographic on Catholic school data is a great visual on the highlights of Catholic schools in the U.S. And the information can be parceled out one piece of info at a time to keep your channels busy and your community informed and prospective families intrigued.

Tell your story. Put your good news to work for you.

The smart way to support your school all year round: gift card fundraising by ShopWithScrip

The following blog was contributed byShopWithScrip, the #1 online fundraiser supporting Catholic schools and thousands more organizations across the U.S. Whether your school needs funds for family tuition, classroom enhancements, class trips, or a combination of things, gift card fundraising is the best way to achieve your fundraising goals.

The school year is wrapping up soon, but your fundraising revenue streams don’t have to take the summer off. If there was an easy way to raise money all year round and grow your bottom line, why wouldn’t you?

With gift card fundraising by ShopWithScrip, families can raise money anytime, anywhere—whether they’re buying groceries, grabbing a coffee, or filling up their gas tank for a summer road trip.

How does gift card fundraising work?

Families use the website or mobile app to buy gift cards for their everyday purchases, and the brands they shop give back to your school. They can earn on gas, groceries, clothing, dining, entertainment, and travel to create more opportunities for your students. Tip: Gift cards also make great end-of-year gifts for teachers.

750+ brands available including:

  • Amazon.com
  • The Home Depot
  • Walmart
  • Starbucks
  • Panera Bread
  • Visa

Why choose gift card fundraising?

  • Convenience: It’s easy, on-the-go earning. Families can buy eGift cards right from their smartphones and use them right away to pay online or in-store. Plus, select physical gift cards can be delivered directly to their doorsteps. Many gift cards are reloadable so families can keep earning with the same ones.   
  • Save time, save money: Say goodbye to the hassles of traditional fundraisers—there’s no need to spend hours selling things, knocking on doors, or planning events. Plus, families don’t have to pay additional money from their own pockets. See more specifics about time and money savings in this comparison chart.
  • The opportunities are limitless: Many families earn $1,000 or more every year. Discover how much money your school could raise with the earnings calculator.

“I have been fundraising with gift cards for the last six years. As the mother of two children enrolled in parochial school, the cost of tuition can become a financial burden. These earnings have saved us thousands of dollars over the years. The best part is that the gift cards are used for items that we would purchase anyway! It’s a win-win for our family.”

– Cristina L., raises money for Holy Parish Catholic School

Now is a great time to get started. With the end of the school year approaching, families can give gift cards to their teachers to say thanks—while supporting your school. Learn more and start a free program today at ShopWithScrip.com. The ShopWithScrip Customer Support team can help if you have any questions, please call (800) 727-4715 Option 3.


A Father’s Love Story

The following blog was contributed by Adam P. Zoeller, a member of the theology department at Saint Xavier High School in Louisville, KY.

“I know your works (behold, I have left an
open door before you, which no one can
close.” (Revelation 3:8).

Sitting on the couch waiting past the curfew of your adolescent son and/or daughter is an experience filled with anxiety and anticipation along with fear and emotional exhaustion. However, when the vehicle pulls into the driveway, the feeling of being overjoyed that their child is home safely can supersede any negative emotion. This shared experience by parents is not the basis for the parable of the Prodigal Son, but there are some striking similarities. “So he got up and went back to his father. While he was still a long way off, his father caught sight of him, and was filled with compassion. He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him.” (Luke 15:20-21).

The message behind this selected verse of the Lost Son story is the anticipation of and
excitement by which God rejoices when one of His children returns home. This parable of Jesus Christ from the Gospel of Luke is a summation of the entirety of salvation history (God’s actions and people’s responses), from the Fall to the Promise. The message is reinforced by the evangelist by including the parables of the Lost Coin (Luke 15:8-10) and Lost Sheep (Luke 15:1-7) in the same chapter. The unconditional charity displayed in these stories captures the infinite mercy of God while providing a model for parents as faithful leaders of their unique and respective domestic church.

The reckless behavior of the Prodigal Son does not fulfill his personal expectations of
happiness nor God’s desire for us. The story emphasizes the importance of healthy relationships which begin in the family. According to the Second Vatican Council’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Church: “The family is, so to speak, the domestic church.” (Lumen Gentium #11). The dynamics of the family have shifted and changed in our society, but the foundation of any family should be rooted in how we know, love, and serve God. Thus, the responsibility of parents is to maintain this standard in the family. What is the result of this standard? The answer is simple. The continual spiritual growth within the domestic church and the restoration of the relationships between families. This restoration can be seen in the witnesses of grace within families and communities, which in turn will provide a taste of God’s kingdom on earth.

Sources:

About the Author

Adam P. Zoeller is a member of the theology department at Saint Xavier High School in Louisville, KY. He has nearly two decades of experience in male adolescent education and formation; teaching in both Carmelite and Xaverian traditions. He earned his B.A. in religious studies and B.A. in clinical psychology from Spalding University (Louisville, KY) and his M.Ed. in educational leadership from the University of Cincinnati (Cincinnati, OH). He holds a Master’s Catechist Certification from the Archdiocese of Louisville. He has written blogs as well as presented workshops and webinars for the National Catholic Education Association (NCEA), been published by the Catholic Journal of Education (“Tolkien’s allegory: Using Peter Jackson’s vision of Fellowship to illuminate male adolescent Catholic education”), worked on educational materials for Revolution of the Heart: The Dorothy Day Story from Journey Films, and was an educational consultant for Ave Maria Press for their World Religions teachers manual.

Upcoming Projects: Adam is co-editor for Hollywood or History: An Inquiry-Based Strategy for Using Film to Teach World Religions (Information Age Publishing).

Adam lives in Kentucky with his wife and his three daughters. He can be reached at azoeller@saintx.com.

10 Lessons to Heed in Achieving School Financial Sustainability

The institutional knowledge of Habeeb and Associates Architects can help your school begin to map out financial sustainability. H & A Architects specializes in educational design and puts a spotlight on 10 things your school can be thinking about for the coming school year beginning with a “healthy building” and classroom designs that encourage student engagement. With 20 years of experience working with Catholic school facilities, the attached presentation features H & A Architects’ innovative but practical ideas on how to work toward and achieve financial stability.

Education Pluralism and the Right to Education in the United States

The following blog was contributed by Quentin Wodon, the volunteer team lead for the Global Catholic Education website.

The fortunes for Catholic K-12 and higher education in the United States have diverged for some time. Enrollment in Catholic K-12 schools has been declining for more than 50 years, with an especially severe drop this year as schools became less affordable for parents due to income losses from the pandemic. By contrast, Catholic higher education has done well, with rising enrollment until relatively recently. Today, some Catholic colleges and universities are facing hard times due to the pandemic and unfavorable demographic trends. Still, many of the 250 or so Catholic colleges and universities remain strong. As a result, while the United States accounts for less than three percent of global enrollment in K-12 Catholic education, the country is home to a fifth of all students enrolled in Catholic higher education.

A key reason for these differences in fortunes relates to tuition. Many parents have a hard time paying for the cost of K-12 Catholic education, even though they may appreciate the emphasis placed by the schools on values and faith. Catholic colleges and universities also charge tuition, but so do public higher education institutions, albeit at a lower rate for in-state students. Therefore, one could argue that public institutions have (slightly) less of a pricing advantage at the higher education level than at the Catholic K-12 level.

This in turn leads to very different levels of education pluralism depending on the level of education being considered. The Global Catholic Education Report 2021 released today suggests a new measure of education pluralism based on the literature on market concentration. The measure is ex-post, based on the shares of students enrolled in different types of schools or universities, as opposed to ex-ante based on whether laws and regulatory frameworks are conducive to pluralism or not. It turns out, not too surprisingly, that in comparison to other countries, education pluralism at the K-12 level is low in the United States, while the country fares better for higher education. Differentials in comparative advantages related to pricing between public and private education are likely to play a role here.

Combining the new measure of education pluralism with data on more traditional educational outcomes, the Global Catholic Education Report 2021 proposes a new set of indices to measure the fulfillment of the right to education at the primary, secondary and higher levels. The United States does well on educational outcomes, but not so well at the Catholic K-12 level on education pluralism, therefore not entirely fulfilling the promise of Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states that “parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.”

What is measured gets done, the adage goes. It remains to be seen whether the measures of education pluralism and the right to education suggested in the Global Catholic Education Report 2021 will catch on. But the report at least makes an attempt to provide a simple quantitative assessment of education pluralism and the right to education globally. More generally, the goal of the report is to make the international community aware of the contributions of Catholic education, while also making Catholic educators aware of lessons emerging from international experience on how to improve educational outcomes. The theme of the 2021 report is education pluralism, learning poverty and the right to education. The report is published under the Global Catholic Education project and co-sponsored by the International Office of Catholic Education (OIEC), International Federation of Catholic Universities (IFCU), World Organization of Former Students of Catholic Education (OMAEC) and World Union of Catholic Teachers (UMEC-WUCT), the four organizations representing Catholic education globally. The report is available for free download and results are summarized in a short YouTube video.

Overcoming the Forgetting Curve: Conceptual Interleaving a Consistent Ethic of Life

The following blog was contributed by Sarah Kernan, a high school theology teacher in Denver, Colorado.

As a high school moral theology teacher, and especially after a tumultuous political season, I’m deeply invested in whether my students gain a solid understanding of a consistent Catholic ethic of life—which recognizes the human person’s inalienable dignity from womb to tomb. Whatever their future vocation, I hope they retain a deep-in-their-bones conviction that all human life, and indeed all of God’s creation, has profound value that must be nurtured and protected.

But how can we make sure a consistent life ethic “sticks” with our students? How can we best nurture in them a life-long commitment to the Church’s social mission, as a vital aspect of discipleship? 

No doubt you’ve experienced the so-called (and rather depressing) “forgetting curve”1 in your classroom. Without reinforcement, we human beings tend to forget prior knowledge at alarming rates—approximately 56 percent after one hour and 75 percent after six days!2 Fascinating neuroscientific research suggests that our brains are actually wired to forget rather than to remember information.3 But on the bright side, this same research highlights strategies that help students actually retain their learning. I’d like to explore what they might look like as we educate students about Catholic Social Teaching and a consistent life ethic.

One strategy that helps learning “stick” is called “conceptual interleaving.” Interleaving involves helping students make as many connections to an idea as possible—typically to other, seemingly unrelated concepts—creating a “‘spiderweb’ of neural connection.”4 So let’s say students are discussing harmful cultural trends concerning human sexuality in a Christian Life course. These include an exaggerated notion of personal autonomy, loss of genuine intimacy and mutual responsibility in relationships, and a contraceptive and abortive mentality that hurts everyone involved. Then what if, in English class,5 these same students could analyze poems by three Pulitzer Prize-winning poets, in which these women reflect poignantly on their deeply personal experiences of motherhood, abortion, and loss. And in a Social Studies unit,6 they could review historical examples of the systematic extermination of marginalized groups, such as Native Americans, but then consider the present-day practice of disability-selective abortion (DSA) as another example of this kind of injustice.

A secondary benefit of this interdisciplinary “interleaving” is that students can begin to think creatively with the Church’s rich Social Tradition, learning to apply pro-life principles consistently and transcending a simplistic liberal-conservative framework for recognizing and addressing social injustice. Having considered well the tragedy of abortion, students could consider immigration, racism, and environmental degradation as life issues, too.7

Sounds awesome, but also like a lot of curriculum work for teachers, right? Here’s the great news: Notre Dame’s McGrath Institute for Church Life continues to add to its Teaching Life and Human Dignity series, a one-of-a-kind collection of free, high-quality learning resources that incorporate a Catholic vision of human dignity into curriculum areas like English, social studies, economics, mathematics, and even health class. The curriculum “heavy-lifting” is already being undertaken by leading pro-life scholars and educational specialists.

Theology teachers need help forming the next generation of compassionate, courageous pro-life leaders. And the latest research suggests how much our students will benefit when we overcome the artificial silo effect between academic disciplines and help them discover the Gospel of Life where they might not expect it. Our colleagues who teach outside of theology are essential partners in doing just that.


1https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0120644
2https://www.edutopia.org/article/why-students-forget-and-what-you-can-do-about-it
3https://www.cell.com/neuron/fulltext/S0896-6273(17)30365-3?_returnURL=https%3A%2F%2Flinkinghub.elsevier.com%2Fretrieve%2Fpii%2FS0896627317303653%3Fshowall%3Dtrue
4https://www.edutopia.org/article/why-students-forget-and-what-you-can-do-about-it
5You can access the unit, Women’s Hidden Experiences: Poetry about Motherhood, Abortion, and Loss, at Mcgrath.nd.edu/liferesources.
6You can access the unit, Making Sense of Historical Atrocities, at Mcgrath.nd.edu/liferesources.
7If you’re interested in this topic, I highly recommend Dr. Charlie Camosy’s recent book Resisting Throwaway Culture and his online course through Notre Dame’s Satellite Theological Education Program (STEP). 


About the Author

Sarah Kernan is a high school theology teacher and graduate of Notre Dame’s M.T.S. program. She also facilitates online theology courses through Notre Dame’s STEP program. She lives in beautiful Denver, Colorado with her husband Matt and their three daughters.

The Year of the Catholic School

The following blog was contributed by Philip Dujardin, theology teacher at the Cambridge Matignon School in Cambridge, MA.

Our Catholic schools have been nurturing the faith and evangelizing to families since they were established. In fact, nurturing and sharing the faith have always been their primary purposes. They should be celebrated in this time of uncertainty. It is time for our Church to declare a “Year of the Catholic School.”

Within a culture that challenges the idea of truth itself, most public educational institutions deliberately avoid acknowledging God. In contrast, Catholic schools offer students a sense that God is in control. Most begin and end the day with prayer, dedicate an entire class period to religious instruction, and display faith-filled pictures, statues, crucifixes and words of encouragement in their rooms and hallways. Surrounded by these reminders, teachers and students grow in confidence that the Lord loves them and has the power to overcome all evil.

Celebrating a “Year of the Catholic School” will rejuvenate a vital ministry of the Church. Our Catholic schools are facing a major crisis. It is time for all Catholics to acknowledge Catholic schools as a priority. Just as God wrote the Bible through human authors, God built our Catholic schools through the sacrifices of parishioners, families, priests and religious brothers and sisters, most of whom responded to a call from God’s Self to serve.  God anointed them with a vision that is still as important as it was when the schools were founded.

Our urban Catholic schools offer opportunities for disadvantaged youth, combating racial inequities inherent in many school districts. A “Year of the Catholic School” could garner support from within and beyond the Church. Some believe that our schools should be able to stand on their own, that if they cannot sustain themselves then they need to close. The reality is that Catholic schools are ministries, not small businesses.  All schools, especially those that serve the poor, need support from all Catholics. Catholic schools, especially those that serve the poor, would benefit from public funding. Celebrating our schools would provide an opportunity to promote school vouchers, giving struggling families the same choices granted to the well-to-do. Latino families would recognize Catholic education as an option that supports their deep faith as well as academic opportunity, providing schools with an influx of students that would sustain them.

It is vital that our schools be a place where Catholic teachings can be taught. A “Year of the Catholic School” would solidify the connection between the official teachers, our bishops and those who teach on a daily basis in our schools. Priests, bishops and families would recognize the good work of our schools. Dioceses would encourage and equip them to promote the faith as taught by the magisterium. There would be an opportunity for real dialogue between school communities and bishops about why the church teaches what it does and how this can be promoted.

By celebrating a “Year of the Catholic School,” communities of faith would honor the work of these institutions to educate so many in the faith, past and present, many of whom are still in the pews of our churches. Imagine the possibilities. We could strengthen the trust between clergy and the schools, garner much needed public support for our schools, mend the pain that school closings have caused families who fought to keep them open, advertise our remaining schools to families and discover creative ways to make Catholic education available, especially to the poor. A renewed commitment to Catholic schools will provide hope in a world that needs it.

Catholic School Enrollment and School Closures, Post-COVID-19

The following blog was contributed by Matthew Cordes, associate director of schools, Office for Schools, Diocese of San Diego.

Reviewing the Catholic School Enrollment and School Closure, Post COVID-19 report left me feeling connected to the rest of our nation’s Catholic schools. The Diocese of San Diego was a microcosm of the national report. Our declines in enrollment for elementary and early education were almost identical to the national report. Our high schools saw a small increase in enrollment but nothing too far from the rest of the nation. More of our schools had waitlists in at least one grade because of COVID spacing restrictions. While we haven’t had to close a low-income school because of COVID, the amount that our schools could spend on safety equipment, training and technology varied greatly depending on the ZIP code.

The questions that I was left asking seemed very similar to questions that we were asking a year ago when we looked at our enrollment reports. With access, equity and sustainability at the top of the list, it seems like the pandemic was more of an accelerator than a speed bump. With the exception of the preschool enrollment dip, which I believe will self-correct in time, our issues seemed to manifest themselves faster this year. However, the pandemic did teach our schools the skills of creativity, grit and adaptability. Principals became epidemiologists and our teachers are now Zoom masters. Classrooms have new ventilation standards and students can collaborate while sitting six feet apart. Just like my kindergartener figured out how to be dropped off instead of being walked into the classroom, our schools are now better able to meet any challenge that comes at it (including making sure my kindergartener gets to his classroom).

Now comes the big challenge. As a body of educators across the nation, can we use our newly acquired skills to come up with more creative solutions to meet the underlying issues facing Catholic education? Once we can remove our masks, let’s use our experience to reassess how we use staffing in our schools. Not as a way to lower a ratio, instead as a way that creates the optimal academic benefit for students such as developing new educational models. Let’s collaborate as a staff on the areas of growth for our school and brainstorm creative ideas to meet the needs of every student. We need to adapt our system to figure out new marketing strategies to attract students that have never thought of Catholic education before the pandemic. Finally, we need the grit to evaluate our institutions to see where we have let down our community with access and equity. These tasks will not be easy, but they can’t be much harder than keeping the gospel message alive during a pandemic! So, let us all go face the current reality of Catholic schools with the knowledge of our newfound skills. While reflecting on our topic, the words of St. Madeleine Sophie Barat came to mind, “Shouldn’t we gratefully accept both good and bad as coming from the hand of God, for both are inclined to our advantage if we know how to profit from them.” At this moment in Catholic education, we have accepted both the good and the bad, now we must use our newfound blessing to profit our ministry.

The Serious Work for Catholic Schools Begins Now

The following blog was contributed by John James, Ed.D., professor of educational leadership at St. Louis University School of Education.

Catholic schools stand as an exemplar and a contradiction. They serve as a powerful creator of social capital, a point of engagement with families for the Church and a powerful disciple-making tool; but operate within a complex market economy dominated by a loss of social cohesion and a consumeristic culture. They serve a critical apostolic mission of the Church and spiritual work of mercy, but must close schools for the most vulnerable and for those who might benefit the most. Catholic school closures in 2019-2020 disproportionately impacted underserved families and non-Catholic families. Black families, Title I students, urban communities and non-Catholics were overrepresented in the demographic sample of closed Catholic schools. The decline of 6.4 percent was driven by a 26.6 percent decline in pre-kindergarten enrollment. Maybe it’s parents working from home, taking a shot at home-schooling, and they will return post-COVID; maybe they won’t. This is no time for complacency. There is serious work to be done!

So why did high schools fare better and are there any lessons regarding governance, administration and finance? Possibly. The median elementary school enrollment in 2019 was 215, compared with 510 for secondary schools; larger schools afford greater efficiencies of scale. Parish investment as a percentage of the school operational budget has remained relatively static in the 9-12 percent range over the last ten years. Secondary school advancement as a percentage of the school operational budget increased from 7.3 percent in 1988 to 13.9 percent in 2018. What is the impact on tuition? Between 2006 and 2019, the average tuition as a percentage of the cost to educate a student increased from 61.1 percent to 75.3 percent in elementary schools, and decreased from 81.5 percent to 73.3 percent in secondary schools.

The disparate impact on urban centers, underserved populations and elementary schools is a logical consequence of a fee-for-service model without much equalization aid. Certainly, many archdioceses have generous tuition-aid programs such as the Today and Tomorrow Foundation here in Saint Louis. However, application of distributive justice to support and sustain Catholic schools is a mixed bag. In 2004, only 33 percent of dioceses had policies and guidelines regarding financial support from non-school parishes that have parishioners attending a neighboring Catholic school; in 2009 that percentage had risen to 48 percent. In 2004 only 14.4 percent of dioceses had policies that required financial support for Catholic schools from all parishes, regardless of whether they have a school or not; in 2009 that percentage had risen to only 28.7 percent.  It’s difficult to argue for distributive justice in the public square when we don’t practice it ourselves.

This leads to the last area for serious reflection: mobilizing parents to demand true educational freedom. Espinoza vs. Montana Department of Revenue (2020), following Arizona v. Winn (2011) has opened the door for the aggressive consideration of tax-credit student tuition organizations that present opportunities for the poor to attend Catholic schools. This is a watershed moment for every Catholic school board to have a “legislative whip” connected upwards to the diocesan office and to the State Catholic Conference, and downwards to the “class captains” for each grade. It’s one thing to hear of some rumblings about some tax-credit thing going on in an education committee at the state legislature; it’s another thing entirely when the State Catholic Conference puts out a call to its “legislative whips,” who send the message to “class captains” for each grade, and individual parents get a personal email from a parent they know who calls on them to rally for their rights as parents.  Australia had its Goulburn moment in 1962 that led to financial support for its Catholic schools. It’s time for ours!