Archdiocesan Schools Get ‘A+’ In Key Practices
Published: August 20, 2009
Students from St. John the Evangelist, Hapeville, prepare to return to the classroom following lunch. Catholic schools were a central focus of the Archdiocesan Planning Committee. (Photo by Michael Alexander)
ATLANTA—Experts in Catholic education, following a several-year study, have concluded that the Archdiocese of Atlanta is implementing “best practices” in the operation of its Catholic schools.
Cited in the report are the strong and effective leadership of Catholic schools under Atlanta’s current and previous archbishop and its superintendent of Catholic schools, the active support of the chief financial officer and a funding model developed during the years of Archbishop-emeritus John F. Donoghue that provides an archdiocesan-wide assessment to support Catholic schools.
This model, while it may unavoidably evoke some pastor complaint, is a “very efficient use of scarce resources” and actually keeps the cost of Catholic schools under control, the report from two Catholic education experts said.
“What is clear objectively is that the Archdiocese of Atlanta model for supporting Catholic schools is among the most efficient in the country,” the report says.
The archdiocesan-wide assessment also reflects the vision of the pope and the U.S. bishops that Catholic schools should be supported, not by a parish alone, but by all local Catholics, the report said.
The report was completed by John J. Convey, Ph.D., and Leonard DeFiore, Ed.D., both distinguished professors of education at The Catholic University of America. At the invitation of Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory, they joined the Education Model Subcommittee of the Atlanta Archdiocese in 2007 as part of the overall strategic planning process already underway.
“Catholic schools nationally … are experiencing very challenging times,” the educators wrote.
“Unique among metropolitan archdioceses, the story of the Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Atlanta has been different,” they said.
“It is not surprising that the Archdiocese has been successful in a host of areas connected with Catholic schools. Basically, the Archdiocese has been implementing what might be called ‘best practices’ in the operation of Catholic schools,” Convey and DeFiore said.
They praised the funding model in particular, citing the fact that it is a “progressive” tax that bypasses parishes with a smaller offertory entirely and is applied as a percentage to offertory revenue over $300,000, which provides a sliding scale even in more affluent parishes.
The net tax rate of less than 12 percent of eligible income “is far below the national average for subsidy levels for school parishes” which is typically 25 percent or higher, they said.
They also praised the use of the funds to pay for debt retirement on already built schools and for financial aid to families who cannot afford the tuition for their children. In the first instance, the debt retirement has allowed the archdiocese to pool “scarce resources” to open new schools, “an enterprise desperately needed but sorely lacking in many parts of the country.” In the second case, the tuition assistance policy targets resources on needy families rather than subsidizing all families in a school, which would be a less efficient use of funds.
The report also outlines what the writers call the “Catholic school effect,” stating that there are demonstrable ways to show that the church receives much in return for investing in children through Catholic schools. Among the results are a lifetime tendency to support the church, to practice the faith and follow moral teachings of the church, to achieve higher academic outcomes, particularly for students from disadvantaged backgrounds, and to consider serving in ministry or a religious vocation.