Catholic Schools in the United States

Father Thomas Maikowski attended Catholic schools in his hometown of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and earned two bachelor’s degrees, one from Milwaukee’s Saint Francis de Sales College and the other from Notre Dame College in Saint Louis. He was ordained a Catholic priest in 1976 and embarked on a career devoted primarily to Catholic education, both as a teacher and as an administrator of schools in the American Southwest. Father Thomas Maikowski has continually enhanced his education and altogether has earned two bachelor’s and four master’s degrees, as well as two doctorates.

Recognizing the importance of education in the development of morally upstanding people, the Catholic Church traditionally has established schools in its parishes to teach the children of parishioners. These schools teach a full curriculum of academic subjects as well as religious topics such as the Bible and Catholic catechism. The quality of the education provided has always been attractive to non-Catholics as well, and the schools have traditionally opened their doors to children of all faiths.

In addition to the high quality of their education, Catholic schools have also provided moderate- and low-income families an affordable alternative to public schools, as the dioceses have underwritten school costs and granted scholarships to the needy. Rising costs in other areas, though, have forced many dioceses to close some schools. Added pressure on Catholic schools, which receive no taxpayer assistance, comes from charter schools, which do receive government financial assistance. Charter schools market themselves heavily to all eligible families, stressing the fact that they’re tuition-free.

Another challenge faced by Catholic schools is finding motivated, effective teachers. Many public school systems, as well as the new charter schools, offer far more lucrative compensation than the Catholic schools can, which makes it more difficult for them to compete for the best new teachers. Another challenge Catholic schools face is the declining number of nuns who typically staffed Catholic schools. Since 1965, the increasing lack of nuns as teachers and the increase of lay teachers, both Catholic and non-Catholic, threaten the religious identity of Catholic schools today.