I should start this post with all the disclaimers.
First and mostly importantly, this is more an uninformed wondering than any opinion based on solidly researched facts. I don't have a dog in this fight.
What am I talking about, you ask? Catholic Schools. I should probably save this post for Catholic Schools Week, but I don't have the first clue when that might be nor do I care.
I live an hour away from the closest Catholic school and I am never going to travel two hours daily to bring my kids to school, even if it were free. It's just not worth it for us. But I do wonder why the schools cost what they do.
The other day, in a thread, someone made reference to an old controversy involving the Nashville Dominicans. I didn't care much about the old issue, but it did prompt me to think about something about the Sisters that bothers me. More disclaimers: I love the Sisters. They are great to visit and do great work and I am proud that my hometown is so closely associated with them. End disclaimer
I have always heard the major problem with the cost of Catholic schools is that the ideal of educating every Catholic child hangs on the assumption that the teachers have vowed poverty and don't really have to be paid. This sounds like a reasonable supposition. And yet. And yet...
So the closest Catholic school to me is a diocesan school--50 minutes in traffic free driving. Most of the teachers are lay people. There might be a few religious on the staff. (Or more than a few? I don't know.) I don't know how much the diocese or the attached parish contributes to the upkeep of the school but I can tell you the tuition is $6410 a year per child. I assume this doesn't include books or uniforms or various fees. I could send all my currently school-aged children (that's three of them) to this Catholic school for $16317 a year because of a multi-child discount. That's a crazy amount of money. Most families can't begin to swing that kind of outlay.
Now let's compare that to the elementary school run and staffed by the Nashville Dominicans. Again, I don't know how this school is supported aside from the tuition, which commands $13690 a year per child. Again I assume this doesn't include books or uniforms or various fees. I do know the properties on which the schools sit are old. They also offer a multi-child discount so I could send my children to the Dominican school for the bargain basement price of $37650 a year. This is utterly insane.
Why does it cost so much?
I do know that both schools offer financial assistance. They all say that if you want your child in the schools, they will work to make it happen. I have also heard through the grapevine that in order to qualify, you have to send every single disposable dollar to the school. Rice, beans, and Catholic school. I don't know if this is true or not, but it is the general impression I have gotten from people who have gone through the process.
Since we are on the topic of the grapevine, it is also the general impression that the Motherhouse demands a premium salary for sending teachers to a school. Once more I'll say I don't know the facts, but people say it is in the neighborhood of 60K per year per teacher. That's a might fine salary for one who has taken a vow of poverty.
So I don't know how the economics of Catholic schools can possibly work. The diocesan schools charge more than most families can afford while the lay teachers live in actual poverty. The Sisters, who have taken poverty vows, charge an eye-popping amount more for their services. How is this sustainable?