Without outside aid to non-public schools, the “burden will be intolerable,” warned the head of the nation’s Roman Catholic bishops last month after a closed-door meeting of five U. S. cardinals and thirty-seven bishops to discuss their parochial schools’ number-one crisis: money.

A member of the U. S. Catholic Conference’s education committee, speaking about the Chicago meeting, indicated that many of the prelates feel the time has come for a unified posture on Catholic school problems. Not surprisingly, therefore, the education committee urged a “vigorous campaign” to obtain aid for non-public schools. The emphasis will be on governmental aid, in an effort to bail out sinking parochial schools all but immersed in red ink.

Just how bad things are is seen in statistics compiled by the USCC education department and the National Catholic Educational Association:

In the past five years, Catholic school enrollments have declined about 22 per cent. If this trend continues, the peak enrollment of 1965 will be cut in half by 1975. The total number of Catholic elementary and secondary schools dropped 7 per cent—from 12,814 to 11,937—from 1967–68 to 1969–70. Enrollment during the same period dropped from 5,215,598 to 4,672,510, a fall of 12 per cent at the elementary level and 4 per cent for high schools.

A recent study shows that while enrollments are slipping, annual operating costs of the schools zoomed $200 million, increasing overall expenditures to $1.4 billion for all U. S. Catholic schools in 1969–70. Tuition payments—traditional bulwark in Catholic school financing—now account for only one-third of elementary-school costs and three-fourths of those for secondary schools.

The average elementary pupil-cost is now $200 a year ...

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