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Riordan: Catholic schools in dire straits

Unbelievably, something appeared over the weekend that Richard Riordan said and with which I agree. Catholic schools are in dire straits. He said it in the Wall Street Journal.

Catholic education in the United States is in dire straits. A report from Loyola Marymount University in June found that Catholic schools continue to close even though they graduate 98% of their high school students and send almost all of them onto college. In the early 1960s, the U.S. had over 13,000 Catholic schools with 5.5 million students. Today there are 6,900 schools with two million students. In the Los Angeles area, enrollment has fallen by 20% over the past 10 years, to 80,000 students from 100,000. This trend is due not to lack of demand, but to the inability of parents to pay tuition.

From there, however, we may differ. Who's getting these students? Riordan's baby: charter schools. Charter schools get their money from the government--Catholic schools don't. But Catholic schools simply outperform charter schools by nearly every measure.

Charter schools are public schools that receive the same dollars as other public schools (in California, $7,500 per student). By contrast, Catholic schools rely on private contributions (averaging $4,000 per student) and tuition (averaging $2,500 per student) from some of our poorest families. In terms of graduation rates, only the very best charter schools in Los Angeles are on par with Catholic schools.

What to do next? Riordan simply wants to increase our local Catholic school endowment by $100 million. I think we could better afford to contribute if we weren't paying for all these damn charter schools.