It’s more tragic than ironic: Just when New York City Catholic schools are needed more than ever, they have fewer spots to offer Gotham’s kids.
As The Post recently reported, the dismal state of the public system, and the lack of in-classroom instruction, have created a massive surge of interest in Catholic schools. Schools run by the archdiocese have taken in more than 1,000 kids public-school transferees this semester. Another 2,000 applications are being processed. Web traffic to archdiocesan sites and test-prep programs is skyrocketing.
The exodus from public schools is easy to understand.
Even before the shutdown of in-person schooling demanded and achieved by teacher unions, public education in New York was already a losing proposition. That was especially true in poor neighborhoods, where minority kids were often trapped in failing schools.
But the pandemic has exposed more of the rot in a system faltering under the misrule of Chancellor Richard Carranza — a dedicated advocate for far-left ideological causes but not for kids.
Parents are frustrated with the lack of full-time, in-person classes in the public schools, as well as the rest of the chaos that has attended Carranza’s reign: from ill-conceived “integration” plans to an overtly anti-Asian campaign to remake screened schooling.
Now compare all this to Catholic schools, many of which started the school year with full-time, in-person instruction.
Even before the pandemic, they provided a more traditional educational experience that counters the poisonous pop-culture ethos in which our children immersed, emphasizing the classical virtue ethics long championed by the Roman church, as well as rigorous academics.
The problem is that the archdiocese was forced to permanently close 17 of its schools this summer due to a massive budget crunch caused by the lockdowns. The archdiocese, moreover, was already struggling with the massive burden of maintaining its proud tradition of local education. Although tuition at Catholic schools is far more affordable than at most private or religious schools, the impact of the lockdowns on working-class families forced many to withdraw their kids.
Now that archdiocesan schools are especially in demand, there are fewer places for more kids.
Then again, the church’s dilemma — too many parents clamoring for too-few spots — is also a wake-up call to Carranza and Mayor de Blasio about their mismanagement and politicized dithering about pandemic-era education.
It’s also a well-deserved slap in the face for union leaders, whose resistance to classroom teaching — despite the science that shows that the danger is minimal and can be managed with proper social distancing — has sabotaged public education.
It is also a reminder of the crying need for more school choice.
Schools run by the government shouldn’t have a monopoly on the term “public education.” Private and parochial schools of all faiths perform the same function. The best interests of students ought to dictate that tax dollars allocated to education ought to follow kids no matter where they wish to learn — rather than serving as a slush fund for an education bureaucracy that has more or less stopped, you know, teaching.
Forcing schools to compete encourages excellence, although, sadly, Carranza and de Blasio have other priorities.
The lobbying power of the unions, and the leftist imperative to dictate solutions embraced by Democratic politicians, have led to efforts to constrict choice programs, including charter schools, in this time of explosive demand.
Concerns about separation of church and state should also not prevent us from realizing that the nation should be helping private and religious schools of all faiths address the nation’s greatest need: giving children a chance to succeed.
Those who can afford private and religious schools shouldn’t be the only ones who have an effective choice. The children of the poor and middle- and working-class parents are made in the image of God, as Genesis teaches.
The public system’s pandemic failure is just one more reason why politicians need to start working on giving parents the kind of choice programs the city needs so desperately.
Jonathan S. Tobin is editor in chief of JNS.org.
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