While speaking to Dr. Kevin Baxter (the superintendent for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles) about the US Bishop’s 1990 Statement on Catholic Schools “In Support of Catholic Elementary and Secondary Schools” as part of the Catholic School Matters podcast series on Church documents, we hit upon two areas that are as relevant today as they were back in 1990.
First, the need for innovative approaches. St. John Paul II pointed this out when he visited the United States in 1987. “Rising costs may call for new approaches, new forms of partnership and sharing, new uses of financial resources. But I am sure that all concerned will face the challenge of Catholic schools with courage and dedication, and not doubt the sacrifices to be made” (page 181). Dr. Baxter and I discussed the innovation in Los Angeles—most notably the introduction of Two-Way Immersion schools to attract more Hispanic students.
Second, the Bishops recognized in 1990 that costs have been spiraling. “Costs have increased 500 percent in the last twenty years, over twice the Consumer Price Index. Fewer than 200 Catholic schools have opened since 1967 and only thirty of those were in the ten largest (arch)dioceses. (183)” They go on to mention the percentage of Catholic students attending Catholic schools has continued to drop. Dr. Baxter points out that in Los Angeles, only 10 percent of Catholic students attend Catholic schools and they view this as an opportunity. If they could increase that number by only one percentage point the future would look bright for many schools.
This is a short document and is interesting historically. The Bishops set ambitious goals for themselves to be accomplished by the 25th anniversary of To Teach As Jesus Did. The goals:
- Continue to provide a high quality education
- Serious efforts will be made to ensure that Catholic education is available to all Catholic families
- New initiatives will be launched for parent choice
- Salaries and benefits of lay educators will reflect Economic Justice For All
The Bishops fell short of these goals which Dr. Baxter and I point out and I’ll again discuss in a future podcast episode. However, the statement has value to mark the mind of the bishops in 1990.