Like many New York children, I grew up in the shadow of a parish school. As a Jewish boy who lived across the street from Saint Saviour High School, I never gave much thought to the school’s impact on the neighborhood.
Generations have used the school for neighborhood meetings and sports and the school’s values provided the community with a sense of stability and safety. Before we close the doors, let’s try to find ways to save these institutions.
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn’s recent proposal to close 14 Catholic elementary schools is a blow to our communities. The decline in enrollment in Catholic schools signals a troubling trend. The diocese and Archdiocese of New York face financial challenges, but we must keep these schools open. The diocese has closed 32 schools since 2005. We have to find a better solution.
From St. Anthony of Padua in South Ozone Park to Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament in Bayside, the loss of these schools would be a crisis for the families of students and students in already−overcrowded public schools. The shift out of Catholic schools and into the public school system will continue to cost New Yorkers hundreds of millions of dollars in additional taxes. Schools and communities are working together to develop financial plans to save their institutions. Let’s give them time to implement these strategies.
Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio will make a final decision in the coming weeks on the latest proposed closings. I urge him to consider proposals from schools, such as Blessed Sacrament in Jackson Heights, and grant them one year to increase enrollment and raise funds.
Let’s give them a chance to also benefit from efficiencies. Simple things like creating unified purchasing systems for insurance, fuel oil and food could help stave off costs for the individual schools.
I support the doubling of the per−child tax credit for middle−class parents and those struggling to make it. This will help parents who want to send their children to these schools, but cannot afford the tuition. In 2006, I introduced legislation to double the Child Tax Credit from $1,000 to $2,000 for middle−class parents and those struggling to make it. It would help put more money in the hands of parents to buy books, clothing or tuition.
We need to find new sources of funding to provide better service to families with financial need. We should all pitch in to help our Catholic schools recruit students and raise money to sustain these schools. If you can donate professional services to help parents save their schools, do it.
If you are an alumnus or someone who remembers the great influence of the parish school on the community, reach out to the Children’s Scholarship Fund, an organization which provides tuition assistance for students in low−income families, and find out how to make a contribution at www.scholarshipfund.org⁄nyc.
The city and its residents should step forward as they always have and lend a helping hand. We need the creativity of parents, educators and community leaders. Our neighborhoods grew up around the church sphere and parish school. Let’s try to save this part of New York’s history and future.
©2009 Community News Group
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