US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Catholics should care about public schools

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As Catholic School Week draws to a close, this public school graduate thinks it’s time for Catholics to turn their attention to public schools.

Sure, we all know how great Catholic schools are—how they’re better at educating low-income students and how they save tax payers an incredible amount of money—but Catholic schools aren’t perfect. Most significantly, I’m not sure their model is sustainable, dependent as it is on paying teachers next to nothing.

If we are concerned about the education of all as an issue of justice, Catholics should be committed to raising the bar for public schools too. Obama said in last week’s State of the Union that replacing No Child Left Behind (which is up for reauthorization) is among his priorities this year. While I’m no expert in the benefits and shortcomings of “Race to the Top” (the potential replacement), I would love to see Catholics put their minds to coming up with smart education policy.

There are many things that Catholic educators could teach the public sector about what works and what doesn’t, but generally the only education policy issue that you hear about from Catholic voices is about vouchers and school choice. And charter schools, pioneering the way with education reform, are often seen as competition to Catholic schools when it comes to school choice.

I’m not against Catholic schools—I hope that they continue to do good work—but Catholics must see public and charter schools as partners in educating the next generation and work to improve education not just for their own children or students, but for everyone.

See also: Our coverage of Catholic schools