Protesters hold signs at a rally for Religious Freedom on June 8, 2012, in Miami.
Protesters hold signs at a rally for Religious Freedom on June 8, 2012, in Miami. (photo: Joe Raedle / Getty Images)

Catholic Schools and Advocates Prepare for More School Choice (Season 3 — Ep. 5)

Only Catholic schools can save the Church, says Boston Archdiocese’s superintendent of schools. He tells Religious Freedom Matters how it can happen.

In the past year, there has been a surge in enrollment in Boston’s Catholic schools. Why? Thomas Carroll, superintendent of schools for the Archdiocese of Boston, is our guest on this episode of Religious Freedom Matters— and a refreshingly outspoken one. He says public schools in Massachusetts stayed closed for so long during the pandemic that many have become “remediation factories, because they lost an entire year of instruction.” But, as soon as it was safe, Boston’s Catholic schools “decided early, and quite loudly, that we were going to be open. ... That message resonated with parents.” The former public-school parents who switched to Catholic schools during the first year of COVID-19 decided to stay — and, in the second year, many of their neighbors followed suit.

Carroll had to combat a “fog of misinformation” that Catholic schools are all elite institutions totally beyond the reach of ordinary parents. He has also determined that they should be faithful to the magisterium — something that can’t be said of schools in all dioceses. He says that only Catholic schools can preserve the Church in these troubled times, using school-choice programs that he wants to extend to all 50 states. But, first, they need to take some obvious practical steps — such as employing multilingual staff.

Finally, this school-choice season of our podcast wraps up with a message from Leslie Hiner, vice president of legal affairs at the nonpartisan school-choice advocacy group EdChoice, who describes the different models available in different parts of the country. She reiterates a crucial point made by several of our guests: The pandemic forced parents to take a closer look at what public schools were teaching their children. The result? “Now we have a parent base across the country that is much more informed about education,” says Hiner. “I haven’t seen anything like this in my lifetime.”