A multi-billion dollar gift

President Barack Obama, like President George W. Bush before him, now has oversight of massive spending in our troubled economy. How much to budget for defense? Where should bailout monies go, to struggling industries such as auto manufacturers or to prop up lending institutions? What to do about the future of Social Security or Medicaid?

We wish our new president well as he and the new administration decide which outstretched hands to fill with our tax dollars. It’s a staggering task and responsibility.

But this is a perfect week to draw attention to an entity that is saving, not costing, the nation billions. We speak of the network of almost 7,400 Catholic schools across the country, including 49 in the Diocese of Peoria.

Catholic schools provide nearly $20 billion in savings each year for the nation, according to Karen Ristau, president of the National Catholic Educational Association. The figure is based on the average public school per pupil cost of $8,701, and the total Catholic school enrollment of more than 2.2 million students.

“Catholic schools are a gift to the church — and to the nation,” said Dr. Ristau. “The enormity of this gift is more striking during these challenging economic times.”

This week, as the Diocese of Peoria joins in the national celebration of Catholic Schools Week (see the special section in this week’s issue), we applaud the excellence of our schools and encourage continued support, especially in the present economy. As Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, has pointed out on many occasions, our school system was established by the deep sacrifices of immigrant ancestors many of whom were experiencing their own economic struggles. Now it’s our turn.

Looking for a good return on an investment? Catholic schools are a multi-billion gift to our nation’s economy. But more than that, they help nurture the priceless gift of faith to our most valuable resource, our children. — Thomas J. Dermody, editor-in-chief, The Catholic Post

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