Is a Catholic school the right choice for your children?

Categories: Guest Views

Our primary responsibility as Catholic parents isn’t to be value shoppers; it’s to help our kids get to heaven

April 11, 2014, edition
By Doug Scott

We are blessed to live in an area with quality schools.

In some parts of the country parents choose a private education for their children just to save them from attending public schools that are insanely large, often unsafe and academically inferior.

Fortunately, that dynamic really isn’t at play in our diocese.

So why should Catholic parents in central Minnesota choose a parochial school over their local public school?

What do parents need to consider when choosing the right school for their kids?

How do we know which schools produce better results?

It would be great to look at the published data comparing area Catholic elementary and high school achievement against their public counterparts, but unfortunately there isn’t any.

Catholic schools do have a solid reputation for providing quality education. But tradition doesn’t take into account individual school performance or what’s happening in these same schools today.

Parents need to ask some pointed questions of the Catholic and public schools they are considering to learn which one is delivering in the classroom.

What to ask

For example, how does your school score on standardized tests?

Have standardized test results been trending up or down in recent years?

What percentage of students from your school eventually enters college?

Most school principals either know these answers or can get them.

Parents should tour the schools they are comparing and talk with some of the faculty and staff. Ask administrators how technology is incorporated into the learning process. Inquire about the services available for kids who might need extra help. Research class sizes.

What about cost? Most Catholic schools charge tuition. How much parents pay will depend on the tuition rate and whether their parish provides subsidies.

This cost should be compared to what public schools charge. Contrary to popular belief, a public education is not free. Many public schools charge multiple fees that can add up fast. Try to get the true cost of an entire school year from both when comparing the total financial investment.

Classroom achievement, services and cost are important considerations in choosing a school. But many Catholic parents want more for their kids than just an affordable quality education. They want a school that will help their children grow in the faith.

In the Catechism of the Catholic Church the laity are given a clear mandate: to exercise the priestly, prophetic and kingly ministries in our lives (CCC 897-913). We meet this challenge when, strengthened through prayer and sacrament, we bear Christ in word and deed especially to those society ignores.

Only at a Catholic school can students attend Mass and participate in the sacraments as part of their school day. Ask around and you’ll discover that celebrating the Eucharist as a community of faith and participating in the liturgical roles at Mass are important elements of the Catholic school experience.

At a time when worship attendance is in decline, nurturing a healthy love for the Mass and a deeper understanding and appreciation of the sacraments should pay huge dividends for our children and our Church.

Catholic schools teach children that life is a faith journey by presenting academic subjects with their corresponding Gospel values.

Now discussions about farming and food production also involve caring for God’s creation. Lessons on the economy highlight supply and demand as well as a preferential option for the poor. By teaching subjects through the inseparable lens of faith, Catholic schools prepare the next generation of prophets to embody Christ-like values in business, public policy and beyond.

Catholic schools instill kingly virtues by teaching the true meaning of serving. Educating our children to see Christ in others and to be Christ to those in need touches the very foundation of Catholic social teaching. As Jesus teaches us in Mathew 25, every time we care for someone on the margins, we are caring for him. And what’s the reward for the righteous servant: eternal life.

Our primary responsibility as Catholic parents isn’t to be value shoppers; it’s to help our kids get to heaven.

Is a rigorous parochial school education the only way for young Catholics to achieve material success and to become true disciples? Probably not.

Is it the best way? Many people think so. It’s up to you to decide if it’s right for your family. To learn more about Catholic schools in the diocese go to www.stcdio.org.

Doug Scott is a member of St. Louis Bertrand Parish in Foreston.