Over the last generation, Catholic schools have been buffeted by a confluence of winds: changing demographics in the urban neighborhoods where many of their facilities are located, the disappearance of nuns and priests from classrooms, new competition from tuition-free charter schools. Finances crumbled, enrollments fell, and 6,000 schools were closed.
Yet two million children remain in Catholic schools today. This includes a great many low-income and minority youngsters for whom Catholic schooling is a lifeline in an otherwise dysfunctional neighborhood. And Catholic schools get enormous bang for their educational buck—posting graduation rates, college success patterns, and levels of constructive student behavior that much exceed the performance at counterpart public institutions.
Donors never gave up on Catholic schools. And in recent years they have begun to be rewarded for their loyalty. The last decade has brought a burst of fresh management structures, teacher pipelines, back-office mechanisms, helpful technologies, support groups, education-reform allies, private investors, and state and local school-choice programs that leave Catholic schools in their best position for future success in more than 50 years.
It is now possible to see the outlines of a significant Catholic-school renaissance. And it is donors who are leading the way. This practical guide describes hundreds of opportunities for savvy givers to put a stamp on this field—where there may be more opportunities for life-changing philanthropy than in any other corner of our nation.
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About the Author
Andy Smarick is a partner at Bellwether Education, a non-profit working to improve educational outcomes for low-income students. He previously served as deputy commissioner of education for the state of New Jersey, and as deputy assistant secretary at the U.S. Department of Education. During a stint as a White House Fellow, he drafted a report on urban Catholic and other faith-based schools, entitled Preserving a Critical National Asset. In 2012 his book The Urban School System of the Future was published. Earlier in his career, Andy helped launch a college-prep charter school in Annapolis, Maryland, for underserved boys and girls. His articles on education have appeared in the Washington Post, Baltimore Sun, Boston Globe, Education Next, National Affairs, Philanthropy, and other publications.