Academic journal article Journal of Catholic Education

Responses from the Field

Academic journal article Journal of Catholic Education

Responses from the Field

Article excerpt

In an effort to encourage dialogue and reflection on matters of common concern and interest, we invite responses on selected articles from other educators, who engage the text critically and offer some reflections about its utility and validity.

RICHARD J. MCGRATH, O.S.A.

President, Providence Catholic High School, New Lenox, IL

Our principal heads the group of Catholic school leaders who fought the multiplier in Illinois by suing the Illinois High School Association (IHSA). The multiplier was set at 1.65 by the Legislative Commission of the Association. We fought the multiplier in court in Cook County, Illinois. The arbitrated consent agreement mandated that the multiplier go to the full membership for a vote. The multiplier passed overwhelmingly and was imposed for the school year 2006-2007.

A handful of private schools in Illinois have been very successful in particular sports; several in football, some in volleyball, and others in basketball and wrestling. These successes, which embrace many different Catholic high schools, are the areas where the greatest resentment over Catholic school athletic success is found. The reasons for these bad feelings among public school officials may arguably be reduced to a few comments.

The success enjoyed in athletics by the under-funded private schools is an embarrassment to the public school establishment. The newspapers and the public compare the athletic success achieved by Catholic schools to the lesser success of public schools which are well funded in many districts and have the finest facilities. The lack of athletic success in public schools encourages the public to ask why its tax money does not produce more successful teams. In our area public schools claim they are providing a superb education, first-rate opportunities, superior teachers and coaches, and yet do not achieve the athletic success seen at local Catholic schools. Some public school leaders in the area are knowledgeable about how Catholic schools work, or have in fact, sent their own children to Catholic schools. They recognize that Catholic school programs often work smarter, have more dedicated staff, have stronger discipline and higher expectations than public schools. Many public school advocates sincerely believe that the reason for Catholic school success is because we do not have boundaries and accept students from outside of the public school district.

A second erroneous perception on the part of some in public schools is their belief that all school children who live in their district are public school property. This unspoken but possessive point of view reflects itself in the attitude that Catholic schools are trespassers interloping in the domain of education, and have no business pulling students from the public school districts to attend a Catholic school. All are well aware that the amount of state aid paid to public schools is dependent on enrollment. Catholic school children who do not attend public schools in their home district are blamed for removing money from the public school district which would be theirs if there were no Catholic school.

Finally, there are those among public school educators and the press who seriously believe that our identity as religious schools is nonsense, and that we are merely private schools providing a safe environment, free from the need to accept special education or difficult and troubled children. They accuse us of providing unfair athletic support and athletic-based scholarships to create superior athletic teams. Our religious mission, tradition of faith, and practice of our faith through prayers, liturgies, retreats, and the teaching of values is, in the perception of some, only a smoke screen, an excuse for taking unfair advantage of the athletic system.

Our experience with the Illinois High School Association has been one of frustration and growing aggravation. …

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