Chicago Catholic Schools See Boost in Enrollment

In stark contrast to the current problems at many other Catholic schools in the country, Catholic schools in the city of Chicago have seen enrollment increase for the last two years.

Michelle Martin at the Catholic New World writes that while it might be too early to say that Catholic schools have turned a corner, Catholic schools superintendent Sister Mary Paul McCaughey of the Archdiocese of Chicago is optimistic that efforts to promote the schools while keeping them on a sound financial footing will pay off.

"We think we can do it," she said.

"We think we can turn it around. It would be so much fun to see that across the system. Large Catholic school systems haven't seen that since '65. But we're a good city to have this happen to."

This comes after financial pressures and a dwindling student body are forcing the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia to seriously consider closing 44 elementary schools and four high schools across Philadelphia.

Joseph Zwilling, the archdiocesan spokesman, said that the 27 schools marked for closing received subsidies totaling $10 million this year. The remaining 189 parochial schools in the archdiocese received a total of $13 million in subsidies.

Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput said:

"No archbishop, and no school administrator, ever wants to see a Catholic school closed.

"But as I often say, we can't afford to fool ourselves. We need an honest response to serious losses that have been happening year after year in our schools."

However, in Chicago, enrollment is stabilizing across the entire archdiocese. And this consistency has allowed the Office for Catholic Schools of Chicago to ask each of its schools for an academic, financial and "Catholic identity" review.

While many schools seem to be doing quite well already, officials would like to see the current trend capitalized upon.

"The schools that are doing it have a strong Catholic culture and excellent academics," Sister Paul said.

"They are engaging parents and refocusing on getting the ‘good whispers' out there."

A frequent obstacle that many prospective families find is the cost of sending their children to Catholic schools. To address this, Sister Paul believes that, in pushing for more public funding of Catholic schools, whether in the form of vouchers or tax credits, would benefit parents, the school and the state as well.

"It saves the state money in the long run," she said.

"They just don't see it."

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