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It's Catholic Schools Week: Here's a (Brief) Update on How the Sector Is Doing

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This week marks the 42nd annual national Catholic Schools Week, and a lot has changed in the Catholic schooling landscape in the U.S. since 1974.

Nationally, Catholic school enrollment has dropped to 1.9 million students since its peak of 5.2 million in the 1960s, according to the National Catholic Educational Association. Eighty-eight Catholic schools were shuttered during the 2014-15 school year, while 27 new campuses opened. Thirty-two percent of schools boast a waiting list. 

Catholic schools in urban areas have been hit especially hard by a combination of changing demographics, rising tuition, and increased competition from free, public charter schools, but there are groups experimenting with ways to reverse those trends, such as the charter school-like network of Catholic schools in New York City called The Partnership for Inner City Education. 

In a more controversial move, a handful of struggling urban Catholic schools have done more than borrow ideas from the charter sector—they've opted to join it by converting into public charter schools.

Catholic schools also make up the bulk of schools participating in private school choice programs like vouchers, which continue to grow nationally. Around 364,000 students participate in a voucher, tax-credit scholarship, or education savings account program according to the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice. 

top private school choice states.jpgCatholic Schools Week runs through Saturday. It follows on the heels of National School Choice Week—a six-year-old event which recognizes all types of school choice.

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Photo: Johann Lara, 6, walks through a hallway at Mater Beach Academy, a former Catholic school that converted to a charter school in 2010. —Josh Ritchie/Education Week

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