The Archdiocese of Washington announced yesterday that it planned to convert seven D.C. Catholic schools to charter schools, a decision that angers some parents, students and teachers who worried over the fate of their parochial schools.
The schools are elementary-level, have nearly all-African American student bodies and are located in some of the city's poorest neighborhoods. To become charter schools, they would have to make changes such as ending school prayer and removing religious symbols. But as charter schools, which are independent public schools, they would receive operating funds from the District.
I understand these seven schools are operating at a four-million-dollar deficit. But what purpose of the Diocese of Washington DC is being served by operating secular schools? As the article points out, part of the reason these schools are struggling is because secular alternatives already exist:
The conversions come at a time when urban Catholic elementary schools across the country are under unprecedented financial pressure. The once-robust inner-city Catholic population has dwindled and, more recently, charter schools, which offer a tax-payer funded alternative to Catholic private schools, have drawn poorer students away from Catholic schools.
If a Catholic Church is going to run a hospital it needs to be a Catholic hospital. It needs to provide medical care within the context of Catholic principles. Similarly, if the Catholic Church is going to run a school it needs to be a Catholic school. Why should a Diocese mask the Catholic identity of its schools in order to provide an education that is no different than Secular Charter School X down the road? It looks like the Diocese of Washington DC is selling its soul for federal funding.