Ravitch: Catholic schools die where charters expand

I hope that the many church officials who are embracing the idea of turning failing Catholic schools into taxpayer-funded charter schools read this interview Sam Freedman did with education expert Diane Ravitch in The New York Times today:

Her criticism of charter schools ... arises partly from a desire to protect Catholic ones. Already reeling from a shortage of priests and members of religious orders as teachers, already losing enrollment because of rising tuition and falling aid from parishes, urban Catholic schools face direct competition from charters, which as public entities are free.Where charter schools are expanding, Catholic schools are dying, Ms. Ravitch said. But charter schools cant do the same things. The Catholic schools have a well-established record of being effective, and theyre being replaced by schools that have no track record.

Ravitch was interviewed in connection with her new book, "The Death and Life of the Great American School System."While some charter schools are very good, charter schools overall have had mixed results, which demonstrates that they are not, in and of themselves, the solution that their proponents claim them to be. And one public-policy consequence of creating charter schools is the jeopardy they pose to inner-city Catholic schools.Those who are funding charter schools - the Obama administration, major foundations, and others - should make sure that they don't inadvertently assist in the demise of inner-city Catholic schools.Freedman, a journalism professor widely known for his books on religion and education and who, like Ravitch, is Jewish, also has some excellent insights on what makes Catholic schools worth saving. One point I've heard him make elsewhere is that Catholics don't contribute enough to their schools ... which is why bishops convert the schools into public/charter schools.But the bishops ready to make such a move should give close consideration to what Diane Ravitch has to say.

Paul Moses, a contributing writer at Commonweal, is the author of The Saint and the Sultan: The Crusades, Islam and Francis of Assisi’s Mission of Peace (Doubleday, 2009) and An Unlikely Union: The Love-Hate Story of New York’s Irish and Italians (NYU Press, 2015). Follow him on Twitter @PaulBMoses. 

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