School Choice & Charters

Private Schools

February 27, 2002 2 min read

Work-Study School

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Austin, Texas, plans to open a high school in August that would be the third such Catholic school in the nation to use a work-study program to subsidize its costs.

The school will be called Juan Diego Catholic High School after a 16th-century Mexican who is believed by many Catholics to have received a vision of Mary at Guadalupe. The Vatican recently announced plans to canonize Juan Diego as a saint.

The school will be modeled after Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Chicago, which started the work-study model in 1996. Under that setup, each student works one day a week in an entry-level job shared with three other students, said Todd Austin, the school’s president. Payment for the work covers most of the students’ tuition.

Families are still expected to pay $2,200 in annual tuition in addition to the money provided by the work program, though it may be less under a sliding scale based on their incomes.

“The goal is to make private education affordable to more families,” Mr. Austin said. “Cristo Rey in Chicago has proved that these students, with the proper training and supervision provided by the school, can be productive in the workplace.”

He added, however, that the focus of the work-study schools is not to prepare students for the workplace, but rather to prepare them for college.

The launch of Catholic work-study schools is being financed by the Cassin Educational Initiative Foundation, a private group in Menlo Park, Calif.

The foundation provided grants for feasibility studies and the establishment of the Cristo Rey school and the De LaSalle North Catholic school in Portland, Ore., another work-study school, which opened last September. It is also financing the conversion of an existing Catholic school to the work-study model in Los Angeles.

The Austin school has received a three-year, $700,000 grant from the foundation, along with $400,000 from the Diocese of Austin for operating costs.

The Cassin foundation is paying for feasibility studies in six cities that could lead to the opening of more work-study schools, said Jeff Thielman, the foundation’s executive director.

Though the donors for the foundation, Bebe and Brendan J. Cassin, are Catholic, and the foundation so far has paid only for Catholic-run work-study schools, it is open to underwriting such schools run by other religious groups, Mr. Thielman said.

However, he said, as with the Catholic work-study schools, “they must serve economically disadvantaged students.”

—By Mary Ann Zehr mzehr@epe.org

A version of this article appeared in the February 27, 2002 edition of Education Week

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