I read with interest “Got Money? What it Costs to Teach in Catholic Schools” (May 20-26), in which Register Correspondent Una McManus succinctly points out the sacrifices made by Catholic teachers every day. However, McManus highlights quotes from a teacher suggesting that these sacrifices are acceptable to individuals who feel that their work in these schools is vocational in the religious sense. The article goes on to mention that some teachers cannot even afford to send their own children to Catholic schools.
In 1982, The Sacred Congregation for Education wrote in “Lay Catholics in Schools: Witness to Faith":
“If the directors of the school and the lay people who work in the school are to live according to the same ideals, two things are essential. First, lay people must receive an adequate salary, guaranteed by a well-defined contract, for the work they do in the school: a salary that will permit them to live in dignity, without excessive work or a need for additional employment that will interfere with the duties of an educator. This may not be immediately possible without putting an enormous financial burden on the families, or making the school so expensive that it becomes a school for a small elite group; but so long as a truly adequate salary is not being paid, the laity should see in the school directors a genuine preoccupation to find the resources necessary to achieve this end.”
This lays out the conditions for involvement in a temporarily unjust situation; the school board must move toward financial stability and a just family wage. Teachers must not be unduly burdened by other work to make up the gap between their needs and the salary since it will dilute their strength and time needed for their duties. Secondly, financial resources are needed by teachers to improve professionally.
Having been a Catholic schoolteacher and administrator for over a dozen years, I have personally lived the tension between the needs of my family, my professional development and the necessity of making the schools I worked in affordable. The real crisis began with the loss of vocations to the teaching congregations. Lay married people have as their first vocation the education of their own children.
The only answers to this problem come from alternative funding schemes for private and parochial schools, such as vouchers or developing new resources of support, for an increase in the sacrifices of parents, and for the return of vocations to consecrated life that do not require sacrificing one's family for one's apostolic intentions.
TOM HARDY Worcester, Massachusetts