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Pope Francis' Visit to NYC Catholic School Highlights Unique Charter-Like Network

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During his visit to the U.S., Pope Francis is stopping by a Catholic school in New York City that is part of a unique and relatively new charter school-like network of Catholic schools in the city.

Our Lady Queen of Angels in the East Harlem neighborhood serves mostly low-income and minority students and is one of six schools in Harlem and the Bronx that are run by a nonprofit independent organization. 

Called the Partnership for Inner City Education, it functions similarly to charter management organizations—like KIPP, to name one well-known example‐which collectively oversee 26 percent of all charter schools nationally, according to the Center on Education ReformIn 2013, the Archdiocese of New York handed over educational, administrative, and operational control of the schools to the Partnership.

Its a way to keep costs down and give schools a channel to share best practices, among other benefits.

"It's easier for donors to work through a central office that oversees 10 schools than [with] 10 independent schools," Andy Smarick of Bellwether Education Partners told me for a recent story I reported for Education Week. "I think we've learned a lot through CMOs, that it makes sense to have economies of scale."

Saving money is crucial to Catholic schools which have suffered from substantial enrollment loss over the last few decades. Catholic school enrollment has dropped has dropped nationally from 5.2 million in its heyday of the 1960s to 1.9 million students today, according to the National Catholic Education Association

The Partnership for Inner City Education is one of a handful of examples of the private school sector borrowing from successful innovations in the charter sector, rather than being taken over by them.

Another is The Drexel Fund, an incubator and funder which just launched this summer to support the opening of new private schools in states with large voucher programs.

I explore in-depth how the private school sector is looking to charters for a blueprint to growth in an article for Education Week coming out next week.


Photo: People walk outside Our Lady Queen of Angels School in New York, where Pope Francis is scheduled to visit on Friday. —Bryan R. Smith/AP

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