Funding Solutions for Catholic Schools (FSCS)
Project: Funding Solutions for Catholic Schools Initiative
The Center for Catholic School Effectiveness at Loyola University Chicago’s School of Education is launching a new initiative, “Funding Solutions for Catholic Schools” (FSCS), to research successful and developing financial innovations. These fiscal options and supporting best practices are being gathered from local, national and international sources in education and various business sectors. Over the next two years, FSCS’s outcomes will include: (i) a concise book presenting a wide range of financial innovations and offering strategic analysis, such that individual schools, religious orders, dioceses and combinations of dioceses can implement these initiatives most effectively and often in consort; (ii) a website presenting updated information in greater detail, providing links to helpful websites and databases, and enabling the exchange of ideas and insights. The book and online portal will constitute a national focal point and strategic framework dedicated to stabilizing Catholic schools and providing the fiscal resources necessary to improve and grow Catholic education.
FSCS’s website will be launched in preliminary form this spring, and the book will be readied for publication by next year. In addition, FSCS’s research will lay the foundation for workshops, pilot projects and a national conference. Workshops will be organized with financial experts to train education and diocesan officials in specific options, such as bond financing and planned giving campaigns. Together these can power effective large-scale fundraising efforts. Pilot projects will be initiated in specific dioceses as proofs of concept for such options as affordable housing for teachers. A conference presenting the range of financial innovations articulated in the book, website and so on will be planned to generate discussion, adaptation and collaboration among Catholic educators, leaders and philanthropists.
Goal: To Help Solve the Financial Crisis in Catholic Education
In 2003, Dr. Lorrane Ozar founded the Center for Catholic School Effectiveness (CCSE) to address critical issues in academic quality and mission strength at preK-12 Catholic schools. FSCS constitutes CCSE’s third—and very timely—leg in service of Catholic schools now facing a dramatic fiscal crisis. Significant financial resources are required not only to save schools but fund badly needed investments in human resources, infrastructure, programmatic improvements and professional development. FSCS seeks to help facilitate this process of rejuvenation already underway in various dioceses.
Urgency: Accelerating Pace of School Closings
Catholic schools mainstreamed waves of impoverished immigrants and powered Catholicism’s rise to become the nation’s largest, most influential religious denomination. Yet since the mid-1960s, half the schools closed and 60-percent of all (and two-thirds of Catholic) students have been lost. Worse, enrollment losses continue to outpace shutterings. Inner-city schools educating disadvantaged minorities, so poorly served in the public system, constitute the Church’s most important social justice mission and yet are closing at an accelerating pace. Most remaining Catholic schools in working and middle-class neighborhoods are barely hanging on, especially in the wake of massive job losses in the recent recession. Catholic education risks collapse, leaving behind small clusters of elite schools for affluent Catholics and a token number of schools for the underprivileged.
The situation seems bleak. In spite of valiant efforts by stakeholders, including the remarkable generosity of donors, frustration and fatigue have caused many dioceses to sink into what Archbishop Timothy Dolan described in AMERICA magazine as the “hospice mentality.”
As the Archbishop Dolan exhorted, we need “to recover our nerve and promote our schools for the 21st century.” Fortunately there are many proven and promising innovations that can save troubled Catholic schools and re-grow the Catholic school system. Catholic wealth and social capital have grown enormously since John F. Kennedy’s inauguration as the first Catholic president. Undoubtedly there is more than adequate intellectual, managerial and financial expertise in the Catholic community to meet current and future challenges.
Action: Create a New Narrative for Catholic Schools
Accessing these resources effectively, however, demands a new narrative for Catholic schools. Donors big and small, as well as parents, need to see a coherent, long-term plan that convincingly secures Catholic education’s future. Then, and only then, will Archbishop Dolan’s appeal to revive the common sense of ownership among all Catholics effectively revitalize Catholic education.
To date, many attempts to deal with the financial crisis have been hampered by fragmented information. Successful approaches to fundraising, stewardship, endowment building and accessing public funding exist but as pockets of innovations that are neither well known nor understood. FSCS endeavors to transform isolated initiatives into a systemic approach by which these innovations can readily be replicated, scaled-up or adapted according to local circumstances.
Creating a new narrative of hope based on a clear vision, consistent with research data and supported by a sensible plan attracts support. The strategy must articulate an adequate level of support from the diocese, religious order or school network in order to solidify commitment. Confident that the schools will survive and flourish, donors will give (and parents will enroll their children), especially over the next 20 years as legacy gifts constitute the largest transfer of wealth in history. Although this entails some material risk, the status quo—raising tuition and soliciting philanthropists to pay off deficits—is doomed. The inestimably greater risk is the failure to educate future generations wisely and fervently in the Faith, in an environment of academic excellence and strong character formation. This is especially critical regarding Hispanic children, the majority of Catholic children in coming decades. Today only four percent of these students attend Catholic school.
It should be noted that FSCS does not advocate a “big plan” imposed inflexibly from above. Rather, subsidiarity is empowered by informed options, which are vital for effective leadership. Also crucial to revitalization is adopting best business practices, fiscal transparency and a spirit of innovation. We have to think outside the box or there won’t be a box.
In AMERICA, Archbishop Dolan quoted his mid-19th century predecessor, John Hughes: then as now, “the school is more necessary than the church.” Saving the schools must be the top priority or all other issues will soon become moot.
Patrick J. McCloskey, author of The Street Stops Here: A Year at a Catholic High School in Harlem, will serve as FSCS’s project director, under the guidance of Dr. Lorraine Ozar, Director of the Center for Catholic School Effectiveness, and Dr. David Prasse, Dean of Loyola University Chicago’s School of Education. The Street Stops Here was published in 2009 by the University of California Press to enormous critical acclaim (“must read” New York Times, “required reading” Wall Street Journal, “a standout in the welter of educational wonkery” AMERICA). The ensuing book tour took the author across the U.S., Canada and Australia, during which the aching question educators and diocesan officials asked was and remains, how do we keep our schools open?
The galvanizing response involves synthesizing our past and our future. We need to recapture the fierce unyielding passion of the religious orders that built the entire nexus of Catholic institutions—in spite of far more daunting obstacles than we face today—and marry this zeal with the savvy implementation of cutting-edge finance, governance, business-practice, pedagogical and development models.