Earlier this week, the Supreme Court awarded a victory to advocates of school choice and religious freedom. He reigned 6-3 in Carson v. Makin that Maine can no longer exclude religious schools from a publicly funded private tuition program. This decision, as well as the 2020s Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenuepaves the way for a new approach to education in America, which ensures that religious schools are no longer excluded from essential sources of funding and support.
The news from the Supreme Court could not come at a more crucial time for Catholic schools across the country. For a generation, the history of urban Catholic schools has been one of decline. Between 2000 and 2012, more than 1,900 Catholic schools closed, and closures were concentrated in underserved communities with the fewest options.
Yet, against all odds, the story is now shifting from decline to resurgence. This year, Catholic schools saw the largest year-over-year increase in enrollment in two decades as parents seek schools that are safe, open to in-person learning and focused on teaching enduring values, on character building and academic rigor. .
The time has come to ensure the sustainability of this resurgence. States should allow families who choose Catholic schools to access the same educational resources and programs as families who choose secular education.
It is often said that an unshakable fact of American life is the trust that families place in their local public schools. Yet over the past two and a half years, parents have grown increasingly frustrated, as large public districts struggle to expand remote learning, teachers’ unions fight to keep schools closed and National public school leaders were trying to exclude parents from critical school programs. and educational decisions.
In contrast, Catholic schools stepped forward to provide parents with what they needed: an in-person education they could rely on; rigorous and content-rich instruction for their children; and a sense of belonging and community that has been lost during the pandemic. Indeed, at the start of the 2020-2021 school year, while only 43% of public schools and only 34% of charter schools reopened to in-person learning, 92% of Catholic schools offered either in-person classes full time. or blended learning.
This success of the Catholic school in providing in-person learning was all the more remarkable because it was driven not by a large influx of federal or state dollars, but by the decision of hundreds of individual school and diocesan officials to find a way to serve their communities. .
This juxtaposition—public schools full of money but short of real education, versus rambling, cash-poor but leadership-rich Catholic schools that have remained open through thick and thin—has awakened parents to the need to choose their school. Over the past two years, parents across the country have voted with their feet, fleeing public schools and landing in Catholic, private and home communities.
Indeed, as a new institute in Manhattan report Details, Catholic school enrollment rose 3.8% nationwide in 2021-22, the largest year-over-year increase this century. Every region of the country has seen a rebound in enrollment in 2021, and enrollment in Catholic schools has increased even in states that have seen the total number of school-aged children decline. In Virginia, for example, which has become the epicenter of the debate over reopening national schools, enrollment in Catholic schools rose nearly 9% in 2021, one of the highest increases in the country.
When it comes to K-12 education, it’s high time that public officials recognize the value options play in ensuring parents’ voices are heard and children’s needs are met. Catholic schools were there when families needed a better option the most, and they will continue to put children first in years to come if we just recognize that they deserve public support.
Last week, U.S. Senators Bill Cassidy, MD (R-La.), Tim Scott (RS.C.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.) and Todd Young (R-Ind.) did just that with the introduction of the Children’s Educational Choice Act. After $190 billion in federal education aid to districts, the bill begins to level the playing field, providing $10 billion in annual tax credits to donors of college scholarship programs. needy families seeking educational alternatives. This is an important start that should be supported and expanded by other federal and state programs.
COVID-19 has changed our country so much: how we work, how we travel, and how we educate. Let’s write a new chapter in American education, one that includes Catholic schools that have, time and time again, proven their transformation in helping families achieve the American Dream.
Kathleen Porter-Magee, a research associate at the Manhattan Institute, is the superintendent of Partnership Schools, a network of seven urban Catholic schools in Harlem and the South Bronx.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.