The coronavirus has affected every fabric of our society and everyday life as we have known it. As Governor Baker continues to lead our Commonwealth through the pandemic’s myriad challenges, our essential prekindergarten-through-12th-grade educational systems — district, public charter, and Catholic schools — are critical to maintaining connectivity and community for our children and their families. Each of these school systems has been working hard to provide vital needs, including food, technology, academic support and instruction, and a variety of other social services to families over these last six weeks.
Fortunately, the Education Stabilization Fund, part of the CARES Act, has provided appropriations to each state to assist educational agencies with emergency relief. These funds are available to all students and all schools in the Commonwealth.
As the second-largest school system in the Commonwealth, educating more than 47,000 students annually, our Massachusetts Catholic schools are vital to our educational landscape. Families choose Catholic Schools for a variety of reasons, and their choice saves Massachusetts taxpayers more than $550 million annually. Our Catholic schools accept all children regardless of faith, sexual orientation, or financial need. Our families speak more than 40 different languages at home and have diverse academic needs and experiences.
Due to the impact of COVID-19, our Massachusetts Catholic schools are facing significant financial challenges. Unlike funding for district public and public charter schools, the revenue streams to sustain Catholic schools come from parishes, donors, monthly family tuition payments, and fund-raising efforts. In addition, our more than 6,000 teachers, school leaders, and administrators do not have the public safety net available to our public schools’ educators and are not eligible for traditional unemployment benefits.
Emergency educational-relief funding will be critical to assist district, public charter, and Catholic schools. All school leaders are critical partners in stabilizing our neighborhoods, cities, and towns as we prepare for and gradually return to what will be our educational “new normal.” We urge the governor and Legislature to be innovative with the CARES Act resources and support all students and families equitably.
Jack Connors Jr.
Connors is chairman of the Campaign for Catholic Schools, and Lynch is chairman of the Inner-City Scholarship Fund.