If the mortar and bricks are getting in the way of the school, raze 'em. Build a skyscraper or a new condo development. Use the money to lease six classrooms in a nearby Catholic, public or private school that also has enrollment problems. Find new leaders with bigger visions. Once you separate the school and the bricks that house it, many creative possibilities open up.
Bill Bennett has just launched a K-12 Internet-based curriculum -- could a program like that help expand schools in a cost-effective way? Raise tuition for the parents who can afford it, and offer more scholarships. Make tuition for the third child free (thus building enrollment and encouraging larger Catholic families in one stroke).
Each Catholic school community should view itself not as a cost center for the archdiocese but as a growth center with a twin mission of evangelism and education. By evangelism I don't mean only or primarily seeking converts, but forming the next generation of Catholic hearts and minds. That's why consolidating for the sake of efficiency is beside the point. We need more centers to grow more communities to expand Catholic culture.
Cardinal Egan, do not fix problems; pursue opportunities. This is no time to retrench, but a massive opportunity to capitalize on increasing discontent and fear surrounding popular and public school culture. We live in the midst of abundance -- in the richest city in the richest society history has ever known. Perhaps the church hierarchy cannot do it alone. But surely, working together, we can afford to seize it.
Maggie Gallagher is a nationally syndicated columnist, a leading voice in the new marriage movement and co-author of The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier, and Better Off Financially.
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