Whining and Begging Won’t Help Catholic Schools

Nothing's going to change the fact that enrollment is down and the church is low on cash.

Remember when you were a kid and your parents said no to the new puppy or the road trip or the new dress or whatever it was that you wanted and they didn’t? And you argued and argued and whined and begged and argued some more? Did they ever give in? In my home, I could count on my mother to say, “This discussion is over. Move on.” And my father would do that annoying thing where every time I started to speak he would make this “ch, ch, ch” sound so that I never got another word in on the subject. I hated their guts at the time but now, as an older and wiser parent myself, I see that tactic as good parenting. I’m the boss, and there’s no room for “appeal.”

This brings me to the Blue Ribbon Commission on Catholic Education in Philadelphia and the closure/merger decisions that were recently made. I’m confused by the second phase of this debacle, the appeal process.

The commission has made it clear that there is a process in place, but they will hear only substantive, factual data and information. What factual information? Stuff they missed the first time around? I mean, they don’t want to hear any arguing/whining/begging, only facts that they didn’t uncover? I’m confused. It is my understanding that the decisions about closure and merger were driven by enrollment trends, building structure and financing—all cut-and-dry, numbers kind of stuff. So, assuming the commission was thorough and uncovered all the pertinent numbers, the decisions should be final. The parents of Catholic schools students should not be encouraged to raise monies, hold out false hope and, most importantly, waste valuable time better served searching for alternative options for either schooling or transportation to a merger school.

Here’s the reality of the situation. Catholic school enrollment is declining and the archdiocese can no longer maintain its buildings, attract quality educators and offer a superior education without cutting bait. Under-enrolled schools, schools that are in disrepair, and those with projected declining enrollment must close. That’s the simple part to grasp, as painful and as unpleasant as it may be. The cruel and unjust part of the process, as I see it, is to offer hope to students and parents that they can somehow change that reality. You can hold all the rallies you want and raise thousands of dollars, as you already have, but the demographics of some of these schools and the hard financial facts will not change. As Mom would say, move on.