The Archdiocese of Philadelphia has reached a deal to have a private foundation manage more than 20 of its schools, in what church officials in the city are calling a “first-of-its-kind” arrangement.
Roman Catholic schools in Philadelphia and other major cities have struggled with their finances over the years, and many have shut their doors. Enrollment in the archdiocese has dwindled to 68,000 students, from 250,000 in 1961. The new model of oversight—described as an “independently managed Catholic school system"—would appear to represent one of the most dramatic efforts to date by the church’s schools to stem losses of enrollment and funding through a reworking of how those schools are operated. (Aug. 29, 2012.)
Under the agreement, an organization called the Faith in the Future Foundation will take operational management and leadership of 17 Catholic secondary schools and four schools focused on special education from the archdiocese on Sept. 1. The foundation will focus on areas such as fundraising, marketing the schools, managing enrollment, and developing “best practices in leadership and education,” according to a statement released by the archdiocese last week. The foundation, working closely with the archdiocese, will also provide support to certain other Catholic schools, including grade schools.
“The willingness of lay leaders with a love for Catholic education to step forward is encouraging,” said Archbishop Charles J. Chaput in a statement. “We have seen the momentum that the foundation has been able to generate, and we are confident that this agreement will lead to an even stronger school system for the children of the Philadelphia region.”
The National Catholic Educational Association is not aware of any similar arrangements between an archdiocese and a private foundation to manage a network of schools.
“This seems like a creative way of ensuring that Catholic secondary schools thrive and continue to grow in the future because it allows for systematic and continued planning,” said Philip V. Robey, the executive director of the association’s secondary department, in an e-mail.
A version of this article appeared in the August 29, 2012 edition of Education Week as Private Foundation to Manage Catholic Schools