New York Archdiocese Begins Drive To Save Schools

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Forced to find $40 million by August, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York last week announced a multimillion-dollar fundraising campaign to keep 140 inner-city parochial schools open.

The church, together with the nonprofit Partnership for Quality Education, hopes to raise $100 million in three years to ensure survival of the schools, which serve 51,428 students in impoverished neighborhoods across the archdiocese.

"Poverty must not be an obstacle to quality education for any young person," said Bishop Patrick Ahern, the archdiocese's director of development.

Established to help the inner-city parochial schools, the pqe consists of business and community leaders and is chaired by Frederic V. Salerno, president of the New York Telephone Company. Partnership officials said that $15 million already had been pledged by late January.

The effort "is committed to keeping school doors open for young people of diverse religious backgrounds whose ability to learn is greater than their ability to pay," Bishop Ahern added.

Last December, the archdiocese announced cuts in its subsidies to parochial elementary schools. (See Education Week, Dec. 12, 1990.)

The archdiocese includes the city's boroughs of Manhattan, the Bronx, and Staten Island as well as Westchester and other suburban counties.

Inner-city schools once were funded by parents, parishes, the archdiocese, and some outside contributors, but those sources have been exhausted, church officials said. The schools' combined deficit was $18 million for the 1989-90 school year, they added.

Approximately 25 percent of the students at the 140 elementary and secondary schools are non-Catholic; 85 to 90 percent are black, Hispanic, or Asian, said Joseph Zwilling, a church spokesman.

Student religious affiliations vary widely, he said, noting that one school is 90 percent Buddhist.

Church leaders described the benefits of archdiocesan schools in both financial and academic terms.

The pqe reported while the yearly cost of educating a pupil in the public school system is $7,150, the cost in the church's system is $1,900. Furthermore, fewer than 1 percent of students drop out of archdiocesan schools and about 90 percent of graduates go on to college, the group said.

Mr. Salerno said that "it is important for New York's business leaders to support programs which have a positive bearing on our workforce."

Robert H. Terte, a New York City school spokesman, confirmed the per-pupil figure, but added that "it's difficult to make direct comparisons" of public and archdiocesan schools.

"Costs to public schools are magnified by programs for special education, bilingual students, and others with special needs," he said.

Vol. 10, Issue 20

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