Archdiocese of Philadelphia
Office of Catholic Education
Grant: $100,000; Funded 2010-11 and 2011-12

PROBLEM: DECLINING ENROLLMENT

For close to 10 years through 2010, and for many before that, high school enrollment dropped steadily across the Philadelphia archdiocese. The reasons were clear: increasing numbers of Catholic families moving from city to suburb; families with fewer children flowing through the traditional Catholic elementary-to-high school pipeline; the cost of tuition; competition from city, charter, and suburban public schools — all free; Catholics disappointed with multiple scandals afflicting the Church, locally and beyond. The high schools were in trouble.

SOLUTION: CALL IN THE EXPERTS

Cardinal Justin Rigali created a 16-member Blue Ribbon Commission in December 2010 to study the serious circumstances facing the archdiocesan school system and to recommend corrective action that would promote stability, growth, and sustainability. Fund directors viewed the goals set by the Blue Ribbon Commission to be worthy of investment and consistent with the Fund’s 40-plus-year commitment to Catholic education across the Philadelphia region. On top of more than $1 million grants in 2011 and 2012 to support the K-8 schools, at Archbishop Charles Chaput’s request, the Archdiocesan Educational Fund approved two grants totaling $100,000 to help meet the Blue Ribbon Commission’s operational expenses and its report implementation costs during its crucial two-year work at a critical time in archdiocesan educational history.

RESULTS: FLEXIBILITY’S A GOOD THING

The Blue Ribbon Commission recommended the closing or merger of multiple K-8 schools and of four additional high schools on top of those already closed at the end of the 2009-10 academic year. This time, however, school alumni, parents, students, and friends pushed the Commission to reconsider its support of the archdiocesan plan for the high school closures. Public opposition matched by hefty fundraising saved the four schools. What’s more, several business leaders proposed to Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., Cardinal Rigali’s successor, that an independent foundation be formed in a unique partnership with the archdiocese that would relieve the economic pressure in exchange for operational control and strategic management of the 17 high schools and four schools of special education. New governance structures, management principles, and other operational changes have been introduced in the four schools originally slated for closure and in the rest of the 17 high schools owned by the archdiocese and, since 2012, managed by the newly formed Faith in the Future Foundation.


“Support from the Arch-Ed Fund enabled the Blue Ribbon Commission to honestly assess the condition of Catholic education in the archdiocese. Our findings and conclusions gave us the essential information to recommend creative solutions, including the formation of Faith in the Future Foundation, that reinvigorated the schools.”

H. Edward Hanway
Chairman, Board of Directors
Faith in the Future Foundation