As the nation works to stem the spread of coronavirus, American schools are bearing an enormous part of the burden. With as many as 9 in 10 schools now closed, almost overnight they have retooled to navigate a new era of large-scale distance learning in an effort to meet the academic needs of the dispersed students they serve. For America’s Catholic schools, the challenge of unprompted and unplanned distance learning is compounded by two other threats: a sharp drop in tuition payments from the families hardest hit by the downturn and the mass closure of the churches that hold our communities together.
One week into the school shutdown, it’s clear that the survival of these vital community institutions hangs in the balance. While traditional public and charter schools can navigate this crisis assured of a continued stream of public revenue, the urban Catholic schools that serve our nation’s neediest communities face a dramatic decline in revenue — not because parents don’t want to pay tuition but because they simply can’t.
The low-income families we serve are exactly the people hardest hit by the shutdown of small businesses, and by the loss of hourly jobs across our city and country. And we shouldn’t have to make them choose between meeting the basic needs of their families and choosing the faith- and values-driven education they so desperately want for their children.
Kathleen Porter-Magee is the superintendent of Partnership Schools and author of the recent Manhattan Institute report “Catholic on the Inside: Putting Values Back at the Center of Education Reform.”
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