With the economic downturn, a lot of Catholic schools are closing. Across the nation, priests and bishops are wringing their hands with concern. "We must save our Catholic schools!" they cry.
I have a simple proposal for not only saving Catholic schools, but dramatically expanding Catholic schools, and at only 5% the current cost.
Indeed, the solution is simplicity itself.
Give a $1000 scholarship per child to every Catholic homeschooling parent.
In numerous documents and public statements, the Vatican has made clear that only the family guarantees authentic education in values.
Obviously, the Catholic school does not guarantee an authentic education in values. Thus, in order to maintain Catholic education while keeping in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity, diocesan money should not go to schools, but directly to families. By subsidizing family homeschooling efforts, the family is strengthened.
The "social values" bishops should be all over this, right? I mean, they're always up in arms about a minimum wage, and putting money into direct subsidies. So put your money where your mouths are, gentlemen. Send money from the collection basket directly back to the Catholic families that homeschool.
"But the parents aren't qualified!" some of you may be shouting. Yes, I'm sure. But take a look at who is teaching theology in many of the Catholic schools around the nation. Certainly it isn't people with theology degrees. Indeed, often-times it isn't even a practicing Catholic who is given the task of teaching the Catholic Faith.
Besides which, when parents do the educating, qualifications stop making a difference. The most recent study of over 11,000 homeschooled students from around the nation shows that the homeschool provides 74% better educational outcomes then public schools, but at a cost of less than $500 per pupil per year (versus in excess of $10,000 per pupil for public schools). This improvement in outcome comes without regard to the number of college degrees the parents might hold and without regard to the household income.
In short, when parents teach their own children, both parties are so motivated that the usual measures for predicting academic success no longer apply. Family income, minority status, college education and certification, all of that is simply not relevant. I think it may have something to do with that whole "love" thing, but that's just an uninformed hunch.
In any case, if we give each homeschooling family a per child subsidy of $1000 per year, it would be generous according to their needs, but only one-fourth the cost of teaching that same child inside of a school whose grounds and staff must be maintained in the style to which they have become accustomed.
In short, the size of Catholic schooling across the nation could be increased four-fold without one dollar of additional expenditure, but with a nearly 75% jump in educational outcomes.
"But we need to simply support our Catholic parochial schools!" you might respond.
Catholic schools do perform 25% better than public schools, but the per child cost is actually the same as public schools when you compare dollars spent on a straight educational basis, without throwing in all the bells and whistles that public schools are required by law to maintain.
Indeed, with the advent of on-line learning, the whole institutional school experience is being revealed for exactly what it is - a prison system for underage children.
Our society maintains those buildings for exactly one reason: it wants to capture the dollar-generating potentials of both parents. In order to do that, the children must be warehoused from the earliest possible age, so that neither parent wastes their economic capacities on the family, but instead orients those dollar-generating abilities towards the corporation, where they properly belong. Elementary and pre-elementary schools are meant to orient everyone to build up the corporation, not the family.
Given what we already know about the capacity of homeschooling to improve educational outcome, given the tremendous resources afforded to every family at virtually no cost through the Internet, it is clear the school building still exists only because it's such a fine warehouse. It certainly isn't about education - that is blindingly obvious.
So, by giving direct grants to families, Catholic bishops would be getting a much better educational experience for Catholic students, they would be directly supporting the family using the social justice principles they have so loudly espoused in regards to the minimum wage, and they could increase the number of students involved in Catholic education by a factor of four with no additional outlay.
It has been my experience that people often know what is best for others and loudly tell them what it is when opportunity arises, "You need to pay your employees a living wage!" "Rich people should surrender part of their income to the poor!" etc.
Now you have a chance to do with your diocesan funds exactly what you keep telling corporations they need to do with their funds: give out the money and give up a little direct control, in the sure knowledge - already demonstrated via several massive studies - that the new solution will provide better outcomes than the old.
So, I'll be waiting for that to happen.
I'm sure it will be quite soon.
Any day now.