A Shelter In The Storm

In scary and uncertain times, I am reminded of how often the Church and its schools have stood as a bulwark for people who desperately need hope.

Over the last few years, we’ve seen this play out more than ever. Parochial schools were hit with unprecedented challenges but managed to keep providing safe places for children to learn.

Despite record enrollment losses and financial struggles caused by the pandemic, Catholic schools remained open and provided instruction when others did not.

Now, enrollment is rebounding, especially in states that provide school choice for parents. Wall Street Journal reports:

Every grade from pre-K through sixth gained students compared to the previous school year. The number of Catholic school closures and consolidations also fell to 71 last year, down from about 100 in prior years

This is great news. But we must do more to ensure that schools – and the communities they serve – are able to keep growing and weather whatever storms may come.

School choice is the way.

You signed up for these emails because you support Catholic schools and parents’ rights to choose an education that works for their children. 

Your voice can make a difference in making sure more families get these desperately needed options. 

Click here to let us know you stand ready to support Catholic schools in your community.

These last few years have shown us the stakes involved and how much of a difference access to education makes in children’s lives. 

Tragically, we know that learning loss and trauma of the last few years will not be easy for students to overcome. But we know that parochial schools will be a critical part of this important work, just as they have stood in the gap to this point.

Visit SupportCatholicSchools.com to keep up with updates and make sure you’re signed up to support school choice in your community.

Thank you for standing with students.

PS: Read on to hear how school choice and Catholic education changed one student’s life:

I am currently getting the best education in my city, thanks to the scholarships and sponsorships I have received so far in my school career. These resources that I’ve received greatly changed my life for the better. Honestly, if it weren’t for the support of others I know I would not be where I am at today.  

Unfortunately, drugs and violence are commonplace in my neighborhood. Statistics suggest that I would most likely be forever lost in the streets of where I live, not preparing for graduation.  I live in a place where most families cannot afford to get the best education and are forced to send their children to public schools.  

It was hard for my parents to get the money needed for my education; They immigrated to the United States and still weren’t quite used to English and American customs. Despite the challenges and with the help of these scholarships, I have been able to attend Bishop McCort Catholic High School.

My parents and I chose this private school for so many reasons. The staff focuses greatly on each individual students’ education. They are always challenging every single student to be the best they can be. From the principal’s inspiring speeches to the constant care and dedication that the staff shows, Bishop McCort never fails to motivate me and my classmates. The educational and moral aspects of Bishop McCort are simply incomparable to the nearby public schools.  

This school has made a tremendous difference in my life. Thanks to this Bishop McCort I have the opportunity to go to college and achieve my life dreams. This school has taught me the importance of education, caring for others, and forming strong relationships with my peers and mentors.  

Read Ennio’s full story: https://www.federationforchildren.org/voices-archive/ennio-esteban

Can Catholic Schools Save America?

Catholic education recognizes the fundamental human dignity of each person. It provides options for children who may otherwise have no way out of generational poverty or dysfunction.

Across America, parochial schools are facing unprecedented challenges, struggling to stay open while providing desperately needed services. School choice programs can help them weather these storms.

I wanted to share a recent speech from Dr. Richard Brake, headmaster of St. Michael High School in Petoskey, MI. He spoke on the problems facing America and how Catholic schools can be a part of the solution: 

Jesus accomplished his mission primarily by teaching, through great stories, and in the homes and synagogues of the domestic Church.

That’s the solution, folks. And that’s what we do every day at St. Michael High School.

I’m convinced that Catholic Education is the only vehicle capable of turning this situation around – and especially to fix the biggest problem facing the Catholic Church: the hemorrhaging of Church attendance, and our dire priest and religious shortage. If we don’t do something soon, folks, there’s not going to be anybody left in these pews, and at the altar celebrating Mass.

In the 19th Century, Catholic schools were founded because of vicious Anti-Catholicism; today, they need to be re-founded to provide any kid, Catholic or otherwise, a quality education that respects the traditional morals and values of everyday citizens.

So the bottom line up front is that Catholic schools like St. Michael High School need more students, more revenue, and better facilities to perform their stellar classical curricula and faith formation…

There are little miracles happening every day at our school, and the only tragedy is that there aren’t more kids taking advantage of this tremendous product.

You and I know how many little miracles happen every day at parochial schools, small and large, across our country. 

These past few years more than ever, we have seen how high the stakes are if we do not pass programs that allow parents to keep choosing these schools.

Visit SupportCatholicSchools.com to make sure you’re signed up to support Catholic schools in your community.

Thank you for standing with students.

This school fought discrimination. Now, it fights to survive.

Heart of Mary Catholic School, tucked away in the Gulf Coast town of Mobile, Alabama, has operated for more than 120 years. Like many parochial schools across the country, it was on the frontlines of fighting in the Civil Rights Movement, with its nuns and priests marching for freedom.

It has stood for vulnerable students and families throughout its history.

And now, like many Catholic schools nationwide, Heart of Mary is struggling. Thanks to population shifts and declining enrollment, the school is fighting to stay open.

This story is being repeated over and over across the country, as the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated existing challenges at schools small and large:

  • A 112-year-old school closes, with no Catholic schools left in the Pennsylvania county it served for generations.
  • Three Catholic schools in New Orleans are closing, citing enrollment and financial stability.
  • Parents left feeling “betrayed” as a Mississippi school closes because of COVID-19 enrollment losses.

Catholic Schools and the families they serve are facing unprecedented challenges.

But there is a solution.

In some states with robust school choice programs, Catholic schools are rebounding. Families are able to send their children to the schools that work for them even in hard times, and schools are able to keep operating.

The old model, where parents shoulder the burden and schools take on the losses, is not sustainable. And the loss of Catholic schools has ripple effects across the community.

Parochial schools make a difference in countless lives. Whether fighting for civil rights through the years, reducing discrimination today, or simply helping kids get a good education – they continue to fill a critically important role in society.

School choice programs help ensure they can continue to serve our communities for years to come.

Thank you for standing with Catholic schools.

As we close out Catholic Schools Week, read another story about how parochial schools made a difference in a young person’s life. 

Since I was a young kid, my mother wanted me to have a Catholic Education. I am the youngest of four siblings. My mom always strived to give us the best education possible. However, having four kids in Catholic education for more than twelve years can be financially draining.  

My parents paid out of pocket for two of my older siblings to go to Catholic School. Unfortunately, as finances became tighter my parents had to sacrifice more and more to ensure I received this education. My parents were willing to make any sacrifice for me and my siblings to get a good, Catholic Education. My dad worked a lot, and often times would be on business trips when he wanted to be home to see our school games or events. My mom always dreamed of being a stay-at-home mom, and her dedication has always been to her family first. Unfortunately, my mom had to give up on that and instead worked two jobs just to provide for our tuition. That really shows how much this meant to her.  

For a long time, a student had to attend public school for at least one year before they could receive the Indiana Choice Scholarship. For my parents, public school was not an option. When I was in high school, the Indiana Choice Scholarship Program finally removed that stipulation, and my family applied. This scholarship helped to make my mom’s dreams less stressful and more financially attainable. Finally, my parents no longer had to decide between spending time with their family and providing us with the education we needed… The Indiana School Choice Scholarship allowed me to go to a school where I could see my potential and where there were people that were willing to help me exceed this potential. 

Read Mallori’s full story: https://www.federationforchildren.org/voices-archive/mallori-wigent/

Celebrating Catholic Schools Week

My name is Rebekah, and I work for the American Federation for Children because I believe every child deserves the right to a good education. As a Catholic, I know how parochial schools meet countless children’s academic and spiritual needs.

This week, people around the country will come together for Catholic Schools Week – the annual celebration of Catholic education in the United States.

Parents choose parochial education for many reasons. A quality education can help children learn in a fulfilling environment. It can help them reach their potential and go on to achieve great things.

This week, we’ll be celebrating some of those success stories. Thank you for standing with Catholic schools and the rights of all students to learn in a place that works for their unique needs.

All my best,

Rebekah Bydlak
American Federation for Children

My parents have always been supportive of my dreams and have done so much to ensure that I can make them come true. So when we heard about the chance at gaining a better education at Academy Prep Center of Tampa, my family did all that they could to ensure that this became possible. This amazing school set up my siblings and I on a truly successful path and continuously pushed us to be the best. With the amazing help of the Step Up For Students Scholarship, I was able to continue my education through the private schooling of Tampa Catholic High School.

This scholarship also allowed for my older and younger siblings to be put into private schools such as Jesuit High School, Academy of the Holy Names High School, and Tampa Catholic High School from Academy Prep. We continued this great track, which led us each getting into major universities such as University of South Florida, Florida State University, and Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University.

There is a lot to live up to with my older siblings being so successful in their lives, but I have been set up with the fundamental tools to reach my achievements. I have been accepted and plan on attending Florida State University and I know that because of Academy Prep and Step Up For Students, I was able to gain a better education and be as successful as I am today.  

Read Saliyha’s full story: https://www.federationforchildren.org/voices-archive/saliyha-varmah/

A message from Sister Rosemarie

Growing up in a Lebanese Catholic family in St. Louis, my parents taught my siblings and me that faith, family, and education are our most treasured blessings. This pandemic has highlighted that these blessings are more important now than ever before.

We’ve also learned that the educational equity divide in our nation is wider and deeper than we had imagined. Many students in this country do not have access to the resources they need to be successful in school. Many parents, in their quest to give their child the best education possible, often encounter financial constraints. They want to choose the best opportunity that develops the fullness of their child’s potential and are often faced with few, if any, choices for their educational journey.

We have the responsibility to change this for parents and for students – to level the playing field for educational choice. This is the mission of the parental choice movement. To date, twenty-nine states have now adopted some form of this legislation. For decades, Florida has led the way in empowering low-income families with the freedom to choose the schools where their children will thrive academically, emotionally, morally, and socially. In a recent interview, the Superintendent for Catholic schools in the Diocese of St. Augustine, Florida explained the top reason that their Catholic schools are gaining vitality is the expanded opportunities for parents to choose Catholic education through tax credit scholarships.    

Catholic schools are demonstrating tremendous advantages throughout these overwhelmingly stressful times.  Their attentiveness to the whole child, their culture of belonging to a community and their faith instilling hope are powerful assets. A recent research study of the students using school choice dollars in Florida indicates that those attending Catholic schools gained more ground in reading and mathematics than did school choice students attending other private schools. 

Together, let’s support school choice. Will you join me and many others who not only believe in the power of education, but work to assure the best advantage for all? 

Sister Rosemarie
Rosemarie Nassif, SSND, PhD
Board Member
American Federation for Children