Public vs. parochial schools

January 27, 2010 3:23:46 PM PST
With the tight economy, some parents are making the decision to take their children out of parochial schools, and some parochial schools have closed. Our motto is 'better students, better future, better people," said John Eriksen, Superintendent Diocese of Paterson. "We want to do this because we want to serve the community," he adds.

It is a community, however, feeling the effects of the most recent recession. So while many parents are able to pay the tuition for parochial schools, many others have had to make other choices. The Diocese of Paterson, feeling it particularly in its urban schools, have closed St. Anthony of Padua, and Mt. Carmel, both in Passaic.

Because of that, 30 of their students came on to the middle school, and many more to the elementary school," said Lincoln Middle School Principal John Scozarro.

Lincoln middle school is 7th and 8th grades only, yet it serves 1,630 students. That's a big number, huge growth of students, many who need special attention in the classroom, and extra-curricular.

"Many come from other countries, so there's language barriers that require special classes. We have 44 clubs after-school, Saturday school we have 500 kids enrolled in Saturday school that augments a child's education," adds Principal Scozarro.

And it all costs millions. In a state with a tight budget, the last thing John needed to hear, was that he might lose 5 percent of his budget. But he heard it.

"A 5 percent budget cut for Lincoln middle school means $950,000, and that would cut the heart out of many programs. And staff members would have to be cut," adds Scozarro.

When more services, parents like Rosita Alvarez, says are needed. New jersey has a high rate of autism. Alvarez's son is one of many.

"They need more therapy, occupational therapy and they don't have many teachers to provide that, so the kids get less than what they should," she said.

At Lincoln, losing nearly a million dollars may cost the school its clubs, aides, counselors, arts programs and more.

"I'm hoping it doesn't happen, but the reality is, if it does, choices will have to be made," adds Scozarro. Thoughts that keep the principal up at night.