Monday, July 27, 2009

Catholic Schools Are Saving New Orleans' Children

I am really glad to see the Catholic Schools are coming back strong in New Orleans! We need to continue to support them and pray for them as their resources shrink and their student population swells. The following comes from Inside Catholic:

Catholics Teach the Children of New Orleans
Since the Katrina disaster, the schools of the Archdiocese of New Orleans have swelled to double the enrollment of the local public schools -- 40,000 to 20,000. Rev. Neal McDermott, O.P., superintendent of the Catholic schools, told me yesterday that the archdiocese is facing a financial crunch when the $10 million in Catholic Charities money, allocated in 2006 to help the schools following the hurricane, runs out.

"Beginning in June 2010, we will have to find $700,000 a year to replace those funds," he said. (Gov. Bobby Jindal eased some of the financial burden by getting a voucher bill passed for kindergarten through fourth grade.)

Since all the public schools in New Orleans have been officially pronounced "failing," parents have been moving their children to charter schools and private schools, but above all to Catholic schools, where 60 percent of the 40,000 students are non-Catholic.

This past spring the Catholic high schools graduated 2,785 seniors, with an amazing 96 percent being admitted into college and another 2 percent into the military. That compares with a 40 percent graduation rate in the public schools. "We teach students from the same neighborhood as the public schools, but we act in loco parentis, because many of these children get little supervision or food at home," Father McDermott explains. The Catholic schools provide their students breakfast, lunch, a snack, and afternoon supervision so that homework is completed before the students go home.

Father McDermott had to consolidate a number of "central schools" in the inner city to accommodate the demand for Catholic education. One of the archdiocesan schools is the Cathedral Academy in the French Quarter, where five Nashville Dominicans are teaching. These five sisters walked through the streets of the Quarter recruiting students, including some from a cruise ship docked in the harbor, where the families of firemen and other service personnel were living after the floods.

"The sisters are applauded wherever they go," Father McDermott told me.

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