The future of Philadelphia’s Catholic schools

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Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput announced the closing of 48 Catholic schools on Friday. (AP Photo/ Joseph Kaczmarek)

Hour 1

Enrollment in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s elementary schools and high schools has been declining for decades, while the costs of running those schools have increased dramatically. Tuition fees, a decrease in the birthrate among Catholic families, and competition from public, private and charter schools all contribute to the Archdiocese’s lower numbers. Furthermore, the Catholic schools have been challenged by increasing labor costs, having to rely on lay teachers instead of nuns and priests who used to provide as much as 58 percent of the staffing with no salaries attached. The announcement by the Archdiocese last week that it will close and/or combine 44 elementary and four high schools will affect over 23,000 students and 1,700 teachers. The decision has been met with shock, disappointment and even anger throughout the area as families try to figure out where their children will go to school and teachers worry about their employment options. Thirty five of the schools are located in the City of Philadelphia and 52 are located in Bucks, Chester, Delaware, and Montgomery counties. The trend is not unique to Philadelphia. Catholic school systems throughout the country are dealing with the same issues and have looked to philanthropy, selling and leasing their shuttered buildings, reconstituting schools as charters, and relying on vouchers to stabilize their schools. In this hour of Radio Times, we talk about the future of Catholic schools in our area with Archdiocese Blue Ribbon Panel members JOHN QUINDLEN and ED HANWAY; RITA SCHWARTZ, president of the Association of Catholic Teachers; and STEPHANIE SAROKI, who is working nationwide to revitalize Catholic education.

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[audio: 011212_100630.mp3]

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