Still A Bargain

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There aren't many nuns in Roman Catholic schools these days. In fact, over the past two decades, the percentage of lay teachers in Catholic schools has increased from about 40 percent to more than 80 percent today.

But this gradual shift from a religious to a lay teaching force has not directly raised school operating costs, church leaders say. In real dollars, lay teachers do not cost appreciably more than religious teachers. "Nuns are never free," says the Rev. Andrew Greeley. "That's one of the mistaken assumptions people make. They forget to take into account board and lodging, health care, education, and retirement."

Although their actual salaries are much higher than nuns' earnings, lay Catholic teachers still take home far less—60 percent to 75 percent less in some places—than their public school counterparts.

These bargain salaries, coupled with lower administrative costs, keep Catholic school per-pupil expenditures relatively low. To educate a child in a Catholic elementary school during the 1988-89 school year, for example, cost $1,476 on average. The cost was far higher in a public elementary school: $4,563 per pupil.

Vol. 03, Issue 01, Page 41

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