If Florida’s Catholic schools and their 84,000 students were part of a public school district, they’d be the ninth largest in the state. They’d generate scores of news stories every year. Have powerful interests battling on their behalf. Win praise for saving taxpayer money. But like other private schools, they’re often out of sight, out of mind.
In Tallahassee Tuesday night, Florida’s Catholic school superintendents led a meet-and-greet with a handful of state lawmakers to send a polite but direct message: Don’t forget about us.
“The impact of Catholic education in our state can never be underestimated,” Bishop Gregory L. Parkes of the Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee told about 100 people gathered on the top floor of the Capitol.
Catholic schools have long enjoyed a reputation for serving low- and middle-income families and setting a high academic bar. For taxpayers, they offer financial benefits, too. Florida’s Catholic schools save the state at least $435 million every year, according to new calculations by the Florida Catholic Conference. That’s how much it would cost to educate Catholic school students in public schools, less the cost of publicly funded school choice programs.