Seattle Education

For the news and views you might have missed

What would charter school Initiative 1240 mean for Catholic schools?

This post was provided by a guest columnist.

Some Questions & Answers About This Initiative

Q: What would happen to Catholic schools in Washington State if I-1240 passes?

A: No one knows for certain. But Catholic school enrollment has significantly declined in every other state that has approved charters. In many states, the number of Catholic schools are less than 50% of what they were before charters were legally permitted. In many states, it’s very common for charters to move into the building vacated by a closed Catholic school.

See Rising charter school enrollment seen as challenge for Catholic schools.

Q: Why would charters threaten Catholic schools? Haven’t public schools and Catholic schools “peacefully coexisted” within the same community for years without any issues?

A: Traditional public schools have always existed in the same community, without any issues, alongside Catholic schools. But Charters are different. Charters are only “public” schools when it comes to their funding. Their teachers, principal and staff are almost always provided by privately owned and operated charter management companies.

These private, charter management companies are usually very aggressive in “marketing and selling” their “brand new, tuition-free school” to any and all prospective “customers” in the area. And they are especially focused on contacting Catholic school parents, who they see as a “prime market”.

Q: What happens when a charter is opened in an area that also has an established Catholic school?

A: When a charter announces its opening, it blankets the area with flyers and posters and postcards promising to provide a rigorous, college preparatory education for free. “For free” matters, particularly to any family facing even a minor economic challenge. It is not difficult to understand why charters would drive Catholic schools out of business–sometimes very quickly.

See Parochial schools feel pinch.

Q: Do we have any examples of where and when charters have threatened or hurt Catholic schools?

A: Almost everywhere charters have been permitted, without exception, Catholic schools have lost significant numbers of students. Nationally, Catholic school enrollment is down 23% in the last decade, after RISING by 20,000 students, or 0.8 %, between 1990 and 2000.

One example: In New York State, Catholic school enrollment (K-12) is down 96,000 students, or 35%, in the last decade. If one focuses on K-8 enrollment, the decline in Catholic school enrollment is down by more than 43%.

Q: How credible is this information? Is there a study about charters and Catholic school enrollment that we can read on our own, without having to rely on your possibly biased and selective interpretation?

A: Yes. A new study says that for every charter that opens, a Catholic school closes.

The author, Abraham Lackman, who worked for the New York state senate when it passed the first charter law in 1998, said that no one anticipated that charters would drain students from Catholic schools, but his study shows that is exactly what has happened. Lackman also says that charters are not as good as Catholic schools and cost New York state additional millions of dollars.

See The Collapse of Catholic School Enrollment: Dissecting the Causes

Diane Ravitch, a former Undersecretary in the federal Department of Education, provides a good overview of this entire discussion. See Charter Schools Vs. Catholic Schools

Q: Where can I find out more general information on Initiative 1240?

A: You can learn more about Initiative 1240, and the risks it holds for all Washington citizens, particularly those with children in either Catholic or public schools at People for Our Public Schools  or   No on 1240 or by calling “People for Our Public Schools” at 206-545-1240.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: