Catholic schools operate on tuition ( which is brutal to budget and, in this economy, for families to meet) and on fund-raising. The cost of educating a student in a Catholic high school runs in the pricey neighborhood of $15,000. Most Catholic schools set tuition for families in the still burdensome area of $ 8,500. Many schools will have a tuition exceeding $ 10,000 per year including books, fees and the bells and whistles like transportation.
Most people who send their children to Catholic schools are church going, religious Catholics, or church going, religious non-Catholics. They are accustomed, or rather acculturated, to obligations of time, talent and treasure beyond the immediate necessities and desires of their family. They give from the pew and write checks to charities and the schools their children attend over and above the required tuition payments. Not only that they, as citizens of Chicago, Cook County and Illinois, pay the highest taxes in the United States in support of the sad and expensive public schools.
Many of these same tax-payers work for the very government agencies that vacuum their checking and savings accounts as well as provide a modest salary. Many of these people are being down-sized. I know of scores of Dads in my neighborhood who have been forced out of work in the last eight years and more who expect to be let-go in the next few months. The other day, I spoke to one of my daughter's classmates at Mother McAuley, whose father is now entering his first year as an apprentice tradesman, after being a five-figure accountant for Cook County from the time he had gotten out of college twenty-five years ago. His bride works at Jewel on 103rd Street and has done so since he was 'smart-sized.'
His daughter will graduate in June and go on to college after being educated in Catholic grammar and high school. They are blessed.
Other families with children still attending Catholic grade school are not so fortunate. How will a family of modest income and monstrous taxes afford a Catholic education for its children?
We work on it. This Sunday, the Catholic New World, reported on two initiatives that have been on-going these last three years. One is the strategic plan developed by the Cardinal, Sister Mary Paul McCaughey and the School Board and the other is the Big Shoulders Assistance Initiative. The Strategic Plan is a common sense setting of viability parameters and expectations for best practices. The Big Shoulders Commitment is much sexier, because it answers the demands of the strategic plan -
The March 6 announcement was precipitated by donors calling and asking about the future of Catholic schools in the lower income communities that the Big Shoulders Fund serves.
“In contrast to what is happening to innercity Catholic schools nationally, enrollment has grown in our schools for three consecutive years through concerted efforts focused on marketing and need-based scholarships, while fundraising has increased each year,” the statement said. “This growth is evidence of increasing interest in the success of our schools and students.”
The Big Shoulders Fund currently provides $12 to $14 million in annual support for 93 inner-city Catholic schools educating nearly 24,000 children in Chicago. This support includes renewable and emergency scholarships coupled with strategic investments in marketing and development, in academic programs and resources and in enrichment programs for students. This year, Big Shoulders Fund will provide $6 million in scholarships to more than 5,000 children in preschool through 12th grade.
The amount of money Big Shoulders Fund provides for schools has grown to its current level from $5 million to $6 million a year only seven or eight years ago, Hale said. The new commitment relies on a continued increase in its fundraising capacity.
“We’re already out there raising the money,” he said.
The statement said the Big Shoulders Fund will invest directly in several schools to help them become more viable.
As I mentioned most Catholic schools are attended by the children of Catholics who have had a tradition of paying tuition. Leo High School is not most Catholic schools. Most of our students come from families who had opted for Chicago Public Schools to educate their boys in CPS elementary schools. Our families found CPS to be most disappointing and the entrance scores of in-coming Leo students who attended CPS schools reflect that opinion.
Leo High School. like other Catholic schools in the African American neighborhoods of Chicago, is refered to as a "Pay School." That is the CPS anti-marketing meme, I believe. e.g. - "If Raheem does not attend CVS, or South Shore, Mrs. Smith, you'd need to send him to a Pay School!"
Mrs. Smith is more than willing pay for a Catholic School.
Read the articles on the two initiative by committed people and the means by which families trying to keep their noses above the mortgages, taxes, repairs, expenses and tuitions can get a Catholic education.
I will be telling you how Leo High School is going to offer a very sexy opportunity for a Leo Catholic Education over next couple of weeks. We are going to show a bit more ankle than our pals Jim O'Connor, Tommy Zbierski and Josh Hale of the Big Shoulders. As Leo President Dan McGrath says, "This is how we roll!"
Catholic schools keep God in play. Catholic schools teach core values of family and citizenship without blush. Catholic schools teach the consequences and rewards of behavior. Our students behave in a manner that reflects credit on their families, their race and their religion -Catholic, Evangelical, Muslim, or Jewish.
Catholic schools are not only about the costs, they are about the values.