Private-School Worries

September 01, 1992

1/8 TC The sagging economy, which has produced its share of disputes over budget cuts and teacher pay in public schools, has been felt in the non-public schools as well.

There was concern that economic problems could reduce enrollment, but as schools open, the expectation is that enrollment will be stable in both Catholic and independent schools in the Baltimore area. While some families may have stayed away from private schools this year because of the cost, school officials say others have turned to private schools because they are concerned about program and staff cuts in the public schools.

Also helping mitigate potential enrollment loss in the Catholic schools was an aggressive promotion campaign last spring, which archdiocese officials say has produced a large upsurge in interest and inquiries about Catholic schools although not, as yet, a corresponding enrollment bump.

Non-public schools report increasing requests for financial aid, and they have responded. The independent schools, locally and nationally, have been working hard to increase minority enrollment. Archbishop William H. Keeler raised some $365,000 for tuition assistance in his Lenten appeal this year. This comes on top of an archdiocesan plan, implemented over the past few years, which involves higher tuitions for families who can afford to pay, but gives more help to poor families and parishes.

While subject to the same economic pressures, the non-public schools have been buffeted less by reform efforts than their public counterparts. Many of these schools, for example, have already required their students to engage in public service; this is a new requirement for public high school students.

Non-public schools are also insulated from the elaborate program of testing and accountability for public schools -- a needed reform which has produced a good deal of controversy. But private schools, in a sense, get a reading on accountability with each semester's enrollment forms and tuition checks.

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