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/