Daily Caller: GURR: Hispanic Americans Need Catholic Education – Protect It With School Choice

By: Valeria Gurr, the Daily Caller , February 1, 2024

This week, Catholics come together to celebrate Catholic Schools Week, reflecting on the contributions that Catholic schools make in the educational landscape and what they mean in young lives across the country. 

For generations, Catholic schools have served a diverse population, both as a pillar of quality education and a champion of foundational values – especially for Hispanic families. For their sake and those of all students, Catholic schools must remain strong for the next generation. 

Hispanic-Americans want what Catholic schools provide. The Latino community in the United States highly values faith, education, relationships, and the richness of their heritage – ideals the Catholic faith and schools nurture. But finances can be a barrier. Latinos make up approximately 70 percent of practicing American Catholics, but account for only 19.3 percent of enrollment in U.S. Catholic schools. 

Although most Catholic schools offer financial aid, it’s not always enough for families to access a Catholic education. For over 50 years, Catholic schools, particularly in underserved communities where every penny is stretched to meet every student where they are, have been closing as the financial strain becomes unsustainable. 

But when school choice programs are available, the picture changes. 

For instance, Catholic school enrollment in Florida grew by 4% in the 2023-24 school year, compared to modest recent growth and longtime enrollment declines in states with less school choice. Over the last ten years, Florida has been the only state among those with the highest Catholic populations where Catholic school enrollment has grown. 

It’s not that Catholic Floridians want a Church-based education more than their brothers and sisters in other states. It’s just that in the Sunshine State, cost is not a barrier. 

For Catholics, education is core to their identity – for the Hispanic community in particular, this opportunity must be expanded regardless of means. 

Catholic schools, as they have done for centuries, are educating the future Latino leaders of our communities and offering a pathway to the American dream. Catholic schools often do the work that the public education system cannot or will not do – reaching out to communities where they are and offering a world-class education. 

During a time when the system failed students, especially Hispanic students, Catholic schools stepped up. For instance, Catholic students in 8th grade saw a one-point average increase in their reading scores after the pandemic, compared to the three-point drop for public school 8th graders; scores for 4th-grade math stayed the same in Catholic schools, while dropping five points among public schoolers in the same grade.

In states like mine (Nevada), Catholic private schools operate in some of the neediest areas, with the intention of putting these children on a pathway to success. For many of these Latino families, these institutions become an extended family of sorts.

In my work as a school choice advocate, I have come across dozens of families seeking parental choice for many reasons. Catholic schools have met these urgent needs, preparing children academically and as active members of the community. Other Catholic schools give students practical, real-world experience with students gaining professional, hands-on knowledge. For my community especially, this opportunity is priceless. 

Read the full article by Valeria Gurr via the Daily Caller here.