In his weekly column, Archbishop José H. Gomez called for nationwide support to keep Catholic schools open as many Catholic schools throughout the nation face permanent closure because of the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule on education funding by the end of this month.
The Archbishop shared his graduation message to the Class of 2020, which included his prayer that this year’s graduating class will be remembered as, “a heroic generation that used the gifts of a Catholic education to love, serve and build a better world at a time of national distress.”
“Catholic schools are not just a concern for Catholics,” said Archbishop Gomez in the column, “Catholic Schools and America’s future”. “America’s 6,000 Catholic schools play a vital role in our national education infrastructure, giving young people the chance to realize the American dream, especially those from minority and low-income families.”
Struck by the pandemic, several dioceses in the nation have announced closures at the end of the 2019-2020 academic year, said officers of the National Catholic Educational Association and of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
“One consequence of this country’s shameful legacy of anti-Catholic bigotry are the so-called ‘Blaine Amendments,’” said Archbishop Gomez. “These are still used by 37 states across the country to prevent taxpayer monies from being used to help students in religious schools.
“Over the years, this has resulted in an unfair situation for poor and middle-class families. They are forced to pay tuition for their children’s education while at the same time also paying taxes to support children enrolled in the public school system.
“But Congress and the White House cannot afford to wait. They should act now to provide immediate relief to help families handle their education expenses and also to expand nationwide school-choice opportunities for poor and middle-class families.”
In the column, Archbishop expressed how with the help of benefactors the Archdiocese of Los Angeles has been able to keep the 265 elementary and high schools open, serving 74,000 students, 80% of which come from low-income families, and 60% of the schools located in underserved neighborhoods. Seventeen percent of the students are not Catholics.
“In the wake of the coronavirus lockdowns, our 265 schools made a remarkable transition to distance learning. Within three days, nearly all were up and running, teaching students online. Through generous support from donors, we were able to provide students with more than 20,000 iPads for home learning,” said Archbishop Gomez, adding that nearly 18,000 daily meals are provided to low-income students and their families.
“But we are reaching the limits of what we can do through the kindness and sacrifices of our Catholic community,” continued Archbishop Gomez, mentioning that for the past 25 years, 181,000 low-income students have benefited from scholarships granted through the local Catholic Education Foundation, for a total amount of $200 million.
“In addition to graduating an amazing 99% or our students, with 86% going on to college, Catholic schools provide great economic value to our country. Per-pupil costs of public schools are about $12,000 a year. With nearly two million Catholic school students, that means Catholic schools are saving the nation’s taxpayers about $24 billion each year,” said Archbishop Gomez in his column, published as the Archdiocese’s Department of Catholic Schools announced it will reopen in-person classes this fall, https://angelusnews.com/local/la-catholics/la-catholic-schools-to-resume-in-person-classes-this-fall/
Archbishop José H. Gomez heads the USCCB and is archbishop of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.