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Boston Archdiocese Seeks Aid From Parents, Parishes

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The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston has proposed in a preliminary report that some of its elementary schools be closed or consolidated, that more school costs be shared between church parishes, and that student tuition be increased.

An archdiocesan planning committee also recommended in the first draft of a comprehensive study of the 138 elementary schools in the Boston Archdiocese that teachers' salaries be boosted.

The proposals "broaden the responsibility for the financial support of Catholic schools by asking financially able parents to pay a larger share of the entire cost of educating their children," and by requiring all parishes to provide support, whether or not they have a school of their own, the report says.

"Traditionally, parishes have funded their own elementary schools," said Sister Mary Jude Waters, director of the planning committee. "It needs to be the whole Catholic community that is supporting these schools."

The archdiocese covers a wide area of eastern Massachusetts, including the Boston metropolitan area. With a total of 54,000 stu4dents, including 37,500 in kindergarten through 8th grade, the archdiocese has the 10th-largest Catholic school system in the nation, according to the National Catholic Educational Association.

The planning study includes several proposals that broadly address archdiocesan education policy, as well as detailed "area plans" that discuss options and recommendations for individual parishes and schools.

The report was submitted late last month to the 400 parishes in the archdiocese with a request for feedback by March 1. A final report will be delivered to Cardinal Bernard Law, the archbishop of Boston, by the summer.

The report calls for as many as 11 schools to be closed or consolidated, but it also suggests that new schools might be needed in about 10 areas, Sister Waters said.

The proposal calls for tuition to be increased over the next four years to cover at least 70 percent of the schools' costs. Most schools' tuition currently covers only 55 percent to 60 percent of costs, officials said.

In addition, parish churches will be required to provide 20 percent of the costs for parishioners who attend the parish or interparish elementary school.

Each parish will also budget for tuition assistance for its school, as well as contribute up to 10 percent of its annual offertory income to an archdiocesan tuition-assistance fund.

The fund will help pay for tuition for families who cannot afford it.

The "area plans" suggest that 25 interparish schools be designated, in which more than one parish would share in the financing and governance of the school.

The proposal calls for salaries of lay teachers to be "increased more aggressively," but it offers no specifics. Catholic school teachers are generally paid far less than public-school teachers.

The plan also calls for a uniform salary scale for lay teachers and principals across the archdiocese.

The Boston plan reflects trends in Catholic education that are touching many other archdioceses, especially those in older cities in the Northeast and Middle West.

Last year, the Archdiocese of Chicago closed several schools and called for greater financial support of schools from parents and parishioners to help avert a financial crisis. (See Education Week, Jan. 31, 1990.)

The Archdiocese of New York has said it will cut its subsidies to elementary schools in half. Last month, it announced the start of a private campaign to raise funds for inner-city schools. (See Education Week, Feb. 6, 1991.)

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