Part IV: Motivating Parents as Advocates for Catholic Schools

Uploaded by WashArchdiocese on 28.01.2011

Okay, November 2006, we hold the informational meeting. An hour-long question and answer
session follows, okay? You think we have people engage now? We went from two people showing
up even those we had all these announcements and the whole bitÖnow weíve got half to
two-thirds of all the parents present at this meeting with an hour and a half question and
answer service. So again, I think we did a great job of raising the anxiety level enough
that they get involved and engaged, providing them with the information, and giving them
something that they can do. The first update showed that 74 of 120 families had returned
their pledge cards with an average gift of over 700 dollars. The next update revealed
that 91 of the 128 families, 71 percent returned their pledge cards again with the average
maintaining at about 700 dollars. The letter from the principal revels that because of
the campaign; tuition was not going to increase the next year. We were raising tuition at
about the clip of six percent per year. Now, Iím going to set aside the money for a second
even though the money is good, what is the greatest thing that was accomplished here?
Thatís right, we engaged the parents. The parents now own this concept of the school
and being their primary educators. The money is impressive and Iím very, very proud of
that because weíve also maintained this level of giving. And every year for the pastÖwell,
since 2006, weíve generated over 50,000 dollars every year, and the average giving has maintained
about 700 dollars. Now I live in a slightly upper-middle class Catholic school parish
so one could say, well, youíve got the affluence to do it. But again, itís not about the money.
The money is great, itís going to help fund it, but more importantly, the parents are
now engaged in the Catholic educational enterprise. So hereís the breakdown most recently, 2009-2010.
So again, little over half the parents are giving, with a sizeable number giving in that
500 to 99 range. We found that we had a ten month payment plan, and so one of the options
that we gave was that just add a month of tuition, and so thatís how we got that kind
of 700 dollar gift. The other kind of genius thing that I threw in was a lot of people
want to get that tax break right in December, so we allowed them to check this box , weíll
take your tuition for December, do it for the Parents in Partnership, and weíll just
tack on a payment in May which will be your tuition. Now, this is good for two reasons.
One, they get their deduction right at the end of the year. Two, we get the donation
right away. Right, so you got the money in December so when youíre setting the budget
in February, itís cash in hand. They have to make that payment in May now because they
checked the box and thatís now tuition collection, the December payment was a donation. Does
that make sense? Okay. This is some pictures that I took this year, right before the case
meeting. What gives me great pride is that Iím not the parent standing up at that podium.
This is another parent. So we have successful leadership succession. AndÖa couple other
things I want to point out. Iím going to put out where the principal is ñ back in
the corner. Thereís the parent, okay? Parent at the podium, principal in the far back corner,
kind of insignificant in this whole process. This is one of the informational meetings
that in the end continues year after year. This one was actually done in the morning
because theyíve been doing evening meetings and they realized well gosh, a lot of parents
forget about the meetings and theyíre driving up and we do have some people who have time
in the morning, so one morning they stood out there, informational meeting this morning.
You know, stop in, free coffee, bagels. Most important point ñ this was a genius move
since I passed it on. I started the Parents in Partnership program so I knew all about
it, but my kids came home from school one day and said we get an out of uniform pass
if you go to this meeting Dad. You have to go to this meeting. So I was there sitting
there and all the other parentsÖJohn, what are you doing here? My kids need that uniform
pass. I got to be here. Again, I mentioned that every year since then weíve generated
over 50,000 dollars. Now actually weíre over a quarter of a million dollars just in the
last four/five years. Next assumption: education and engagement of parents will have unforeseen
positive results. These are some of the things that happened. Out of those ten people that
were in that second session, on of them was someone who was very talented in marketing.
I mentioned another person was an alumnus of the school. So they saw these trends and
they said well what can I do? So one of them went ahead and started a grants committee.
And our grants committee started going after grants. We got a McDonaldís grant, this grant,
the other grant. Now weíre generating about 20,000 dollars a year in grants. Probably
most notably we got a McDonaldís grant that put smart boards in all of our classrooms.
Now again, I canít guarantee success, but the point is once parents are energized, they
see the problem they see the issue, they have talents and skills, they decide, ìI can step
forward and I can do this. I can set up a grant committee.î We had another parent who
started the alumni association and so at the alumni association they started a campaign
to do this brick garden, selling bricks for 150 bucks a pop to alumni. Eight graders,
as they graduate, get for your eight grader, memorialize in perpetuity that your son graduated
in 2011. 150 buck a pop. So again, our alumni association quickly generated around 50,000
dollars and thatís going to continue through the years. So hereís some pictures of thatÖthe
alumni association, the alumni garden, the grants committee. Hereís another thing ñ
I know we might have some high school people here and grade school people always say well
the high school people have got the advancement director, the development director, theyíve
got the annual support programs and everybody loves their high school but nobody loves their
grade school because theyíre moved off and doing other stuff like that. So I thought
about this a second. Thereís nobody from the archdiocese of Omaha in here, right? I
grew up in Omaha, went to Holy Cross grade school. I was the youngest of ten kids, James
family, so I started thinking, ìWhat would engage me in Holy Cross grade school in Omaha,
because Iím in Webster Groves and Iíve got my own kids.î And I thought about it for
a second and said, you know if Holy Cross started a family scholarship, and if I found
out that the Herger family has a family scholarship and the Conroy family has a scholarship, and
the OíBriens have a family scholarship, well Iíll be damned if the James family doesnít
have a scholarship. That would be enough for me to get on the phone and call my brothers
and sisters, and as presents to one another for Christmas or birthdays or for mom and
dad, we throw a couple hundred bucks in there, set a minimum threshold of maybe ten thousand
dollars for a family scholarship, give people the choice of one or two things. Either they
can have the five percent go off every year to fund that, or you can have a smaller percentage
of that go off and have the corpus continue to increase each year. So maybe 200 dollars
in real dollars every year from now in perpetuity. So those things I think really appeal to people
who no longer live in your parish, maybe went to the grade school, and now they live in
far flung places, because itís the whole pride factor. Thatís where Iím from and
if those other families that I went to school with, especially back in the day when I was
growing up where you had families of 6, 8, 10 kids, thatís a significant hook. Now thankfully
Holy Cross has not contacted me yet and Iím trying to keep it that way. Okay, assumption
number ten: parent advocates need to be educated regarding the violation of parental rights
under the banner of ìSeparation of Church and State.î And hereís where weíre going
to get into advocacy. And I think this is the real big kahuna in this whole thing. I
was talking about money and talking about, you know, my parish, and the money is great.
But really the large dollars and the social justice issue boils down to parent advocacy.
And we have bought this lie of separation of church and state. We canít get parents,
we canít tomorrow say to parents, okay weíve got someÖvoucher bill or tax credit coming
on out, get some placards and go out there and march in the streets. Theyíre going to
go, are you kidding me? I didnít go to Berkley. I didnít smoke weed in the sixties. Whatís
all this protest, political activism stuff? But if they are engaged, if they see the financial
data, if theyíre working the grant committee and theyíre doing this, theyíre going to
be receptive to this idea that, you know what, I am a primary educator of my kids. Why am
I taxed twice? Right? Okay so Iím going to go ahead and go through this really quickly.
Thereís a couple of arguments that we need to lay down if youíre interested in kind
of a very short article on this, the archbishop also put me on the Missouri catholic conference
so I wrote a short little piece for the newsletter thatís going out to everybody in the state
of Missouri and itís on the Missouri Catholic Conferences website. So if you go to Missouri
Catholic ConferenceÖI think itís MCC.comÖwell just do a Google search for Missouri Catholic
Conference and Iíve got an article there thatís titled, ìThe Child is not the Mere
Creature of the Stateî which is a quote from the 1935 Pierce versus Society Sisters Supreme
Court Decision. But it kind of lays out these three principles in kind of a methodical form,
it kind of makes the argument for tax credits. So the first point of our argument is the
role of the state in education is to ensure that a literate population may participate
in our republican form of government as productive members of society. I think we need to get
back to first principles and say, ìWhy is the government involved in education?î Thatís
why. We need a literate population that can participate in our republican form of government.
That goes back to Jeffersonís ideals that we need a literate population to participate
in this process. Interestingly enough for the educators out there, we all hearken back
to our public school system, to the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, which articulates how the
five great lake states would be divided up into townships and how we funded school from
the sixteenth section of every township is viewed as this great institution, and it is
a great institution of our country to fund public schools. But interestingly enough,
we read into the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 the reason for education ñ religion, morality,
and knowledge being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and
the means of education shall forever be enshrined. Now sometime over time we lost that idea of
religion and morality and all that stuff. Second point from first principles: parents
are the principal and first educators of their children. This comes directly from the catechism
of the Catholic Church, but it also comes from the United States Supreme Court. Back
in 1925, the Ku Klux Klan and the Free Masons wanted to try to outlaw Catholic education
in the state of Oregon and they were successful. They passed a law that would require everybody
to go to public school. Thankfully, the Knights of Columbus came forward and they funded this
case for the sistersÖthe Society of Sisters, which landed in the Supreme Court. And in
a rare, 9-0 opinion, the justices had this to say, ìThe fundamental theory of liberty
upon which all governments in this Union repose excludes and general power of the state to
standardize its children by forcing them to accept instruction from public teachers only.
The child is not the mere creature of the state; those who nurture him and direct his
destiny have the right, coupled with the high duty, to recognize and prepare him for additional
obligations.î Thatís not the catechism, thatís a 9-0 United State Supreme Court Decision,
Pierce versus Society Sisters, 1925. Third part of our argument: Parents, not the government,
ought to be in charge of their childrenís education by letting them choose the best
schools for their children. In Catholic theology we see this is the principle of subsidiary.
Those people that are closest to the situation, ought to be doing whatís best for their situation.
Parents ought to be empowered to make the choice for their education. Also, a quote
from canon law: It is necessary that parents enjoy true freedom in selecting schools; the
Christian faithful must therefore be concerned that civil society acknowledge this freedom
for parents and also safeguard it with its resources in accord with distributive justice.
So that in a nutshell is our three part argument for tax credits. And also Saint Pius the eleventhís
encyclical I think addresses that whole issue of subsidiarity in terms of people at the
lowest possible level should be making the decisions when possible. Okay, assumption
number elevenÖweíre getting down to the end here. Parent advocates need to be organized
and supported by an information and lobbying infrastructure. This is where people start
getting a little queasy ñ lobbying, infrastructure, political action. Weíve got to do this. Iíve
been running numbers in my head and looking at Catholic school financing for a long time,
and we are talking about increases of 7.2 percent per year, every year for the past
twenty years. Thereís only so much fundraising, reorganization, redistribution of resources
we can do. And fundamentally at the bottom here is an issue of injustice, injustice for
parental rights. So here weíve got a structure. This was a structure that was put up in the
state of Nebraska and a number of different Catholic conferences have adopted this. In
fact, I would encourage you, if you do have a Catholic conference, a Maryland Catholic
conference, to plug into that organization. Thereís no sense to recreate the wheel. Use
the infrastructure that you already have here. So here at the very top weíve got Catholic
school parent political action committee; that could be a subset of your catholic conference.
If you donít have one, you can create that, but you already have that in place. And I
believe it was Maryland a little while ago did the information campaign and increased
the number of parents on the rolls. And a lot of times, along with that rolls they can
designate what interest area do you have. Is it pro-life, is it social justice, is it
Catholic schools? And so hopefully the Catholic conference has that database.