Emotional students and teachers packed up years’ worth of belongings as their beloved school, St. Augustine, closed its doors forever last June. A charter school moved into the building.
The conversion reflects a sea change happening throughout the state, said Abe Lackman, who is presenting new research in April to the National Conference of Catholic Educators.
Lackman, a scholar-in-residence at Albany Law School, told the audience that Catholic school enrollment in the state has been on the verge of collapse in the last decade, and that transfers to charter schools account for 37% of the decline. About 180 charter schools in the state have drawn roughly 32,000 students away from the Catholic school system.
“Without some type of relief, those charter schools will draw another 50,000 students over the next decade,” said Lackman, who started researching K-8 schools last August. “I think it’s the tip of the iceberg.”
Lackman said about 200 new charter schools are opening in the state in the next several years. Nine are opening in the Bronx next school year.
His initial findings have generated buzz in the city, propelling a panel discussion titled “The Tension Between Catholic Schools and Charter Schools” at St. Francis College in Brooklyn last week.
Of the five borough Catholic grammar schools that closed last year because of financial woes, two are now charters: Harriet Tubman Charter School at St. Augustine, and the Bronx Charter School for Excellence at Our Lady of Solace. St. Martin of Tours now houses Public School 51.
Rev. Thomas Fenlon, pastor at St. Augustine - which recently merged with Our Lady of Victory in Claremont - said losing students to public and charter schools also means losing a moral curriculum.
“(The school) was an important part of our church, our parish, our mission, to try to help the children and talk about the values that are important to us,” Fenlon said, “and we’re not able to do that.”
Make no mistake, charter schools sell a moral curriculum as well - it is the Gospel of Work, Shop, Obey.
And make no mistake, a few more years of unbridled charter school growth and almost every Catholic school in the city will be gone, replaced with a Moskowitz "Success" Academy or some other charter that preaches the Gospel of Work, Shop, Obey that is supported by hedge fund managers and other Wall Street criminals.
For years, Catholic schools and traditional public schools have co-existed peacefully in this city, but now the Catholic school is being killed by the very cancer that was created by the free marketeers to kill off the traditional public school.
It is time to rid this city of the charter school cancer.
I used to think that charter schools could peacefully co-exist beside traditional public schools the way Catholic schools have, but the last ten years has shown me this is not the case.
Charters really are a cancer and the industry and its entrepreneurs will not be satisfied until they have killed off every traditional public and parochial school.