First Place Award for General Excellence, Catholic Press Association, 2013-2016

A Vote for Education

It has not been easy for the parents, students, teachers and administrators in the 29 Catholic elementary and high schools in the archdiocese that were identified as at risk of closing this year.

They’ve been committed to Catholic education and have sacrificed for it. The families, many of them barely scraping by and eligible for scholarship assistance, are willing to accept the burden of tuition payments; the students agree to abide by the schools’ high academic and disciplinary standards in exchange for their quality education; and the dedicated teachers and administrators work at a salary scale lower than that of the public school systems.

And while four of the “at risk” schools have been able to put together financial plans to enable their survival, the great majority of the “at-risk” schools could not. Their operating deficits are just too large to close.

Cardinal Dolan and his Education Department staff have been working hard to shore up the archdiocesan school system for a long and healthy future. The regional education boards created under the Pathways to Excellence plan were a step in that direction—and, indeed, it was expected that the boards, after completing their first year of operation, would see a need to close their weaker schools and consolidate in stronger ones.

More is needed, however, to ensure that our archdiocesan school system survives and thrives going forward. The archdiocese has pledged its continued financial support for the schools—even if the level must, necessarily, be reduced, as Cardinal Dolan explained in his column in CNY’s last issue.

That’s why we’d like to see a big push by all Catholics, whether or not they have school-age children, for something else. Schools Superintendent Dr. Timothy J. McNiff, writing in a letter published earlier this month in The New York Times, called it an important “strategy to ensure that Catholic schools continue to serve their local communities.” He was speaking of the Education Investment Incentives Act, which is currently in the state Assembly as A.1826 but which has not been brought up for a vote. It has passed the state Senate in previous years by a broad bipartisan margin, and is expected to be reintroduced in that chamber.

The legislation would allow individuals and corporations to redirect a portion of their state tax liability to programs that provide private-school scholarships and to agencies that support enhanced services in public schools. Currently, 11 states have enacted such programs and five others have similar programs. We’re sure that if this measure had been on the books here, at least some of those 29 at-risk schools would not be threatened.

The state’s bishops, through the New York State Catholic Conference, have been working hard to build support for this legislation in Albany. In the archdiocese, a well-attended panel discussion on “Saving Catholic Schools” at a Manhattan hotel last month (CNY, Dec. 27) gave the initiative a further push. The effort deserves your support too; we urge everyone reading this to contact your state Assembly members and Senators and tell them what you think.

As we head into Catholic Schools Week, which begins Jan. 27 with the theme: Catholic Schools Raise the Standards, we can’t think of a better way to acknowledge the proud service of the Catholic schools in New York and to encourage their continued success.


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