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Archbishop Dolan is in the news, yet again.  And so is Waiting for Superman.

In a timely and thoughtful Daily News article, Archbishop Dolan offers a great insight on the importance of  K-12 Catholic education as ed reformers search desperately for a superhero.

Consider the following:

Superman is already here – and he’s waiting in the classrooms of New York’s Catholic schools.

If only the film had focused some of its attention on what is happening in our inner-city Catholic schools. I can’t help but be proud of what we have accomplished here in New York. Last June, 99% of our high school seniors graduated, and 96% pursued college.

These results are even more impressive considering Catholic schools serve the same demographic as public schools. Nearly 70% of children attending our inner-city Catholic schools come from families living at or below the federal poverty level, and 94% of our students are minorities. As reformers debate whether high-quality charter schools or traditional public schools better serve low-income children, Catholic schools should not be left shouting on the sidelines.

While the students in our schools have become more diverse over the years, the purpose of Catholic education remains the same. We provide a values-based, academically excellent and nurturing school to our children. Yes, we proudly teach our students about the Catholic faith, yet we also serve children of all faiths, or none at all, respect each of their backgrounds and care equally about their future.

Our schools still do a remarkable job with children – and they desperately need support from wider society.

To quote the Archbishop, Superman is indeed waiting.  And he could definitely use our help.

In other news, the Archdiocese of New York’s Office of the Superintendent of Schools just released the strategic plan discussed in an earlier post.  To download the plan, follow the link off this page. Might this bold vision for centralized financing represent the future of K-12 Catholic education in other urban areas?

As a former high school teacher in the Diocese of Charlotte, I couldn’t be more pleased to see the diocese opening a new Catholic high school, Christ the King, in the north side of the city, an area called Lake Norman, as reported here in the Charlotte Observer.  Charlotte is one of (if not THE) fastest growing diocese in the country, experiencing a boom in its Catholic population, largely due to transports from the Northeast and Midwest, but also due to one of the fastest growing Latino populations in the nation.

I hope that the Diocese of Charlotte can find new ways, amidst its growth and prosperity, to effectively serve this newest wave of immigrant Catholics.  As a larger banking town with a considerable amount of corporate wealth, Charlotte would seem to be a prime candidate for a number of highly effective programs that have found ways to make Catholic schools more accessible to low-income families.

Large privately funded scholarship programs like the Big Shoulders Fund in Chicago or the Fulcrum Foundation in Seattle could be very successful in Charlotte.  Though it may be difficult to think of yet another high school anytime soon, the Cristo Rey model could also be successful in Charlotte with the large corporate sector in the city.  A Nativity-Miguel middle school could be another interesting option.

It is a great day in the Diocese of Charlotte and great to see a community where Catholic education is expanding.  May we always keep asking how we can do better and do more, particularly for the neediest families and those that can benefit most from a quality Catholic education.

(Guest Blog post by Mike McShane, learn more about him)

I have to admit, when I watched the Oprah episode in which Mark Zuckerberg gave $100 million to the Newark public schools, I cringed a little.  It was not because I think Mark Zuckerberg is a bad guy, I don’t.  It was not because it was some PR stunt to save face after an unflattering portrayal in a popular movie, I don’t think it was.   It’s not because I don’t like Cory Booker, or Chris Christie, in fact, I think both are pretty awesome dudes.  Rather, what made me cringe was the idea implicit in giving to the Newark Public Schools-that the reason the schools in Newark stink is because they don’t have enough money.

Perhaps a little history would be helpful.  Public schools have been languishing in the Garden State longer than I have been alive.  In 1985, the state Supreme Court ruled in Abbot vs. Burke that the disparity between the rich and poor districts violated the Constitutional provision that “the Legislature shall provide for the maintenance and support of a thorough and efficient system of free public schools for the instruction of all the children in the State between the ages of five and eighteen years”.  As part of the three Abbot-related rulings, 28 (later expanded to 31) so-called “Abbot Districts” were identified and targeted for special consideration and increased levels of funding.  Newark is one such district.

A little bit of snooping on the District’s website shows a total operating budget for 09-10 at $871,324,656.  Divide that number by the 08-09 enrollment (lets just assume no change this year, for argument’s sake) of 39,992 and you get a whopping $21,787.47 per student.

Now look, I’m not trying to argue that educating kids in Newark is easy or cheap.  I’m not trying to argue that their funding should be cut in any way. What I am arguing is that there is no possible way that it costs more than $21,787.47 per year to teach kids in Newark.

A simple question: do you think that if given $21 thousand-plus dollars a year, Catholic schools would be able to teach these kids successfully, regardless of disability, English language learning status, or any issues that they brought into the classroom?  Apparently, if the Newark Public Schools need $100 million more dollars from Mark Zuckerberg, they can’t.  I’m inclined to think Catholic Schools could.

Due to a real lack of funds, Catholic schools are closing across the country. They have proven time and time again because of the people they employ and the shared mission they strive to achieve, that they can succeed in teaching students while being good stewards of tuition and philanthropic support.  So if Mark Zuckerberg (or tax payers for that matter) wants to spend his money in these austere times wisely and in a way that will actually affect change, he should send it to Catholic Schools.