Catholic schools to charter schools?

February 7, 2009 5:20:59 PM PST
An unusual church-state partnership that could save some endangered Catholic schools -- while at the same time shore-up New York City's faltering public school system. Mayor Bloomberg and the head of the Diocese of Brooklyn announced the plan today.

In Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, which is predominantly Catholic, parents can certainly appreciate their parochial schools -- but they also know that some of them are slated to close.

"Ideally, I think the neighborhood would want to keep the Catholic schools, but I guess, you take what you get," Bay Ridge parent, John Malloy says.

It's why Mayor Bloomberg and Bishop Nicholas Dimarzio of the Brooklyn diocese announced an idea today. They say they're looking into choosing four Catholicschools in Brooklyn and Queens and then, converting them into charter schools:

  • Public schools where students are now enrolled, would be guaranteed admission. New students could be admitted by lottery, and religious instruction would be banned from the curriculum.

    Mayor Bloomberg says this solves two problems at once.

    "The diocese has schools it can't afford to keep open. We need space, and if they close their schools, their students would come into our school system, we thing," Mayor Bloomberg said.

    The city's public schools are already overcrowded -- and the Catholicschool buildings, nearly empty. Some of them could hold more than a 1,000 students, but currently have fewer than 200 -- and the diocese is drowning in operating costs.

    "Well, I think we're kind of at a flood situation..and the mayor is like Noah -- he's throwing out a life preserver," Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio/Diocese of Brooklyn said.

    The mayor hasn't said which Catholicschools would be picked, but some parents seem o-k with a change -- especially in these tough times.

    "I'd rather save the money that I put into Catholic school, and use it for them when they go to college," said Janet Dakwar/Catholic school parent.

    As it stands right now, this is only an idea. The mayor says the state would have to change its law prohibiting the conversion of religious schools to charter schools. If that happens, we could see this, as a pilot program in September.

    WEB PRODUCED BY: Lakisha Bostick