O'Brien: Archdiocese is not shutting out charters

March 18, 2011

Providing the best education to students is the goal of not only every Catholic school in Baltimore but likely that of every charter, parochial, public and non-public school in the city. Education is a personal gift, a civic treasure, and one the Catholic Church places great value in offering the children of Baltimore as it has done for over 200 years.

Unfortunately, that is not the message that came through in The Sun article ("Charters emerge as threats to Catholic schools," March 17) reporting on a recent decision by the Archdiocese of Baltimore to decline the offer of Baltimore International Academy (BIA) — a dual language charter school looking to expand — to purchase a former Catholic school building in Northeast Baltimore.

The archdiocese chose not to place another school at St. Anthony's, the site of a Catholic school that closed in 2010, because to do so would be to threaten the viability of several nearby Catholic schools (12 within a seven-mile radius), including our new Catholic dual language school, Archbishop Borders Catholic School.

Our decision not to make this particular property available to BIA does not mean the archdiocese is opposed to charter schools or other non-Catholic schools operating at our facilities. In fact, it could not be further from the truth. Some 18 Catholic properties have recently housed charters and Head Start programs, and we will soon announce the sale of another former Catholic school building in the archdiocese to a charter school. And just last fall, the archdiocese brokered the lease of the former Shrine of the Sacred Heart School in Mt. Washington to Baltimore City Public Schools. This unique partnership further demonstrates our commitment to the education of children and to the surrounding community.

We all have a role in educating children, and we think it is to Baltimore's advantage to maintain the presence of Catholic schools for many years to come. For that reason, we must make the promotion and strengthening of Catholic schools our first priority while continuing to work with our educational, government and business partners in the city to ensure every child has access to outstanding educational options.

Edwin F. O'Brien, Baltimore

The writer is archbishop of Baltimore.

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