The Reverend Timothy Scully founded the Alliance for Catholic Education at the University of Notre Dame in 1993. This highly successful program trains teachers and administrators for service in needy Catholic schools, and has attracted many top-ranked graduating college students to the cause. Philanthropy recently spoke with Scully about ACE and the role Catholic education plays in America.
Philanthropy: Why did you start ACE?
Scully: To respond to the changing needs of inner-city Catholic schools across the country. The religious orders that founded these wonderful, extraordinary little islands of hope and served them for more than 100 years were dying out as vocations in our church. We knew we needed to replace that talent, so we founded ACE to form a new generation of Catholic school teachers and leaders who were lay people.
Philanthropy: How have you seen Catholic education change in the past few decades?
Scully: The most important change has been that 25 or 30 years ago, 95 percent of the teachers in Catholic schools were religious brothers and sisters—a wonderful asset that has largely disappeared. That not only changed the culture of our schools, but presented financial challenges as well, because these religious sisters and brothers were paid very little. We’re creating a new generation of teachers who are committed to the same mission as those earlier apostles. The biggest challenges that faces us are to maintain our Catholic character, strengthen academic excellence, and make sure these schools are financially sustainable.
Philanthropy: What is the role of philanthropy in Catholic schools?
Scully: Thoughtful philanthropists can have their greatest leverage on Catholic education by investing in leadership programs. The next 10 to 15 years of the Alliance for Catholic Education at Notre Dame are going to be focused on forming principals and superintendents. School leaders establish the culture of high expectations; they hire the teachers. One thing we know about school achievement is that great teachers deliver great results. That’s why we are going to focus on the principal.
Philanthropy: Why is Catholic education good for America?
Scully: Imagine a country where the only schools available to inner-city children and low-income families are state-run schools. The vibrancy of America is its rich, diverse civil society. To lose this wonderful asset of faith-based education available to underprivileged people would be a real tragedy. The evidence suggests that Catholic schools form citizens who are more tolerant, who vote more frequently, who are two and a half times more likely to graduate from college, who have high expectations, who volunteer more often, who are more generous philanthropically. Those are the kinds of schools we need to form America’s citizens.