Over the last generation, Catholic schools have been buffeted by a confluence of winds: changing demographics in the urban neighborhoods where many of their facilities are located, the disappearance of nuns and priests from classrooms, new competition from tuition-free charter schools, and other factors. Enrollments tumbled. 6,000 schools closed. Financial pressures thinned instructional resources.
Yet two million children remain in Catholic schools today. This includes a great many low-income and minority youngsters for whom Catholic schooling is a lifeline in an otherwise dysfunctional neighborhood. And Catholic schools get enormous bang for their educational buck—posting graduation rates, college success patterns, and levels of constructive student behavior that much exceed the performance at counterpart public institutions.
Donors never gave up on Catholic schools. And in recent years they have begun to be rewarded for their loyalty. The last decade has brought a burst of fresh management structures, teacher pipelines, back-office mechanisms, helpful technologies, support groups, education-reform allies, private investors, and state and local funding programs that leave Catholic schools in their best position for future success in more than 50 years.
It is now possible to see the outlines of a significant Catholic-school renaissance. And it is donors who are leading the way. This practical guide describes hundreds of opportunities for savvy givers to put a stamp on this field—where there may be more opportunities for life-changing philanthropy than in any other corner of our nation.