Chris Greco is Vice President, Market Development at Location Labs and a member of the CEF Board of Directors.
I learned more than reading, writing, and arithmetic by attending a Catholic High School in the Archdiocese of Miami in the ‘90s. The faculty, such as my theology teacher, Father Ron, kept me close to the faith, not only in the religious sense, but he also taught me how to persevere. Our dean of discipline, Dean Lefler, well, enforced the "rule of law." I believe the 4 years I spent attending a Catholic High School brought me closer to my faith and made me more resilient.
Fast forward to 2016. I learned that my alma mater will close this year.1 Lack of funds was the reason cited. The Board and alums were surprised by the Archdiocese's decision to make my alma mater a relic. I am inclined to believe they did whatever they could to save the school.
There are significant headwinds facing Catholic schools in the US.2
Here are some statistics:
- In the early 1960s, there were more than 5.2 million students in nearly 13,000 Catholic schools in the U.S.
- Today, that number is down to 1.9 million students.
- That's about 0.6% of the total US population and 2.7% of total registered US Catholics.
Overall, since 1965, the number of Catholic schools has declined by more than 50%.
And it’s not just an issue for Catholics. Here are some facts on Catholic school impact on crime and social disorder:
- Neighborhood social cohesion decreases and disorder increases following the closure of a Catholic elementary school. (Brinig & Garnett, 2010, p. 890 )
- Police beats in Chicago that experienced at least one Catholic school closure had a higher crime rate than those in which there were no closures. (Brinig & Garnett, 2011, p. 906)
And on poverty:
- Inner-city Catholic school parents report taking an active role in their children’s education, and they believe that participating in the Catholic school community represents an opportunity to break the cycle of poverty. (Stewart, Wolf, et. al, 2009)
When I look at the challenge of keeping Catholic schools open and thriving, especially in or near the inner city, generating acute awareness of their immense impact in these communities is paramount.
This is one reason why the Catholic Education Foundation has established a "Strategic Growth" Committee.
This Committee, composed of volunteers from the CEF Board, is a data-driven, execution-focused, marketing team at its core. We see Catholic education as a "product" that needs new marketing investment.
First, our own Catholic community must recognize that there are few causes more important than keeping Catholic schools open...and growing. Second, Catholic K-12 education complements and fills gaps, especially in inner-city and rural areas where public and non-parochial private instruction does not. Catholic education has a clear and necessary role in the US educational system.
We need more awareness.
We need to do a better job instilling an emotional connection to this cause. Catholic schools benefit Catholics and non-Catholics. As harsh as this may sound, we need Catholics to re-evaluate their charitable gift-giving priorities.
To break the cycle of poverty, people must know and embrace organizations like CEF, and contribute. Without us, Catholic schools across the nation will close. Catholic schools in our own Archdiocese will close, and education on a national level will suffer.
To learn more about CEF and the Strategic Growth Committee or to contribute to CEF, contact CEF’s Executive Director, Bill Kirk.