Almost any article on Catholic schooling today will have at least one paragraph in it describing the last five decades’ decline in both the number of Catholic schools and the number of students attending them. At this point, the factors are well known: fewer priests and religious staff working in schools, Catholics becoming wealthier and moving to the suburbs for better schools, less overt discrimination against Catholics in the public school system, yada yada yada.
Now, this is not true everywhere. In states that have embraced private school choice programs, like Florida, Catholic schools are seeing a renaissance. New networks of Catholic schools like the Notre Dame ACE Academies are taking advantage of private school choice programs. There are now 15 ACE Academies in three states that are leveraging school choice programs to deliver high-quality Catholic education to children who need it.
The truth of the matter is that if Catholic education is going to continue in America, it is going to be a fight. Traditional public schools are not going to give up market share willingly. Charter schools will offer an easier option, with almost always more money and in many places more political support. Closed schools will make pastors’ lives easier and parish budgets easier to sustain.