By Vatican News
Bishops Michael Barber, Shelton Fabre, and Joseph Perry have addressed a letter to the chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, Karen Bass, seeking support for black families in Catholic schools as the US Congress debates federal aid for education during the coronavirus crisis. The Bishops are chairmen respectively of the USCCB’s Committee on Catholic Education; Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism; and Subcommittee on African American Affairs.
In their letter, dated 30 July 2020, the Bishops note that “Catholic schools are facing a crisis” at this time due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. Over 130 Catholic schools have already announced that they will be closing permanently, and more than 500 more have expressed uncertainty about their ability to open in the fall.
Catholic schools have proven especially beneficial to minority students, the Bishops write: “A black or Latino child is 42% more likely to graduate from high school, and two-and-a-half times more likely to graduate from college if he or she attends a Catholic school.” Catholic schools also “bring cohesion to communities and increase family involvement in schools”.
For more than 200 years, the Bishops write, “Catholic schools have prioritized serving the marginalized” in the United States. “This important work continues across the country today,” they continue, citing the role of Catholic schools in major urban areas such as Los Angeles, New York, Detroit. The majority of Catholic school students in those areas are minorities, many living at or below the federal poverty line.
“We ask that families of non-public schools be considered as part of the comprehensive needs of K12 [kindergarten through grade-12, that is, primary and secondary] education, since non-public students represent ten percent of the K12 student population,” the Bishops write. With Congress deliberating on coronavirus-related aid to public schools, the Bishops argue that “10% of what is made available to public schools should be directed specifically to the non-public school community to provide direct aid to families in the form of means-tested scholarships.”
That is, the Bishops request that federal assistance should be provided, not to the schools themselves, but directly to families, in order to allow them to choose the best education for their children.
“Black families attending Catholic schools are counting on you,” the Bishops write to the Chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, “as are families with children in public school.” They plead, “please do not leave them behind just because they value the historical and time-tested benefit of our Catholic schools for their children.”