D&C reporter Erica Bryant has posted a story related to the MCCS System's 2007-08 financial report. She quotes diocesan spokesman Doug Mandelaro as saying that the forced closure of 13 Catholic schools last June has eliminated a potentially large budget deficit.
It is difficult to communicate that the decision, as hard as it was to do, was made to preserve Catholic education for the long term and to head off financial issues that would have threatened the whole system.
Well, the MCCS may have balanced its financial budget but the long term effect on the diocese's spiritual budget will be nothing but negative. The reason is that the hundreds of Catholic children forced out of the MCCS system will now have to attend a religious education program in order to learn something of their faith. As a catechist in one of those programs I can assure anyone interested that one hour in a religious ed class is but a poor substitute for a full week in a school imbued with an authentic Catholic Christian culture.
Some folks in the Diocese of Tulsa have made this point much more eloquently than I ever could. Their arguments can be found here, especially in the last four paragraphs
Finally, I wish Doug Mandelaro or Bishop Clark or even Anne Wilkens-Leach would tell us why DOR refuses to benchmark and then emulate the best practices of dioceses with successful, growing school systems. The Diocese of Wichita, for example, has but 1/3 the number of Catholics as Rochester, yet it still serves over 10,800 students in its system of 39 Catholic elementary and high schools. In the last 10 years Wichita has added 3 schools and over 800 children to its system and, since 2002, every one of those schools - every grade from K through 12 - is totally tuition-free to Catholic students. As one report puts it,
Wichita has reaped an enormous reward for its youngest members, flying in the face of conventional wisdom that Catholic schools were doomed to raise their prices to the point of diminishing returns and eventual closure.
The full story can be found here.
What is Wichita doing that DOR is not? Is DOR doing anything that prevents it from being a second Wichita?
One would think that our leaders would have have ready answers to those questions. After all, isn't the spiritual health of a diocese much more important than numbers on a balance sheet?