The new, national Commission on Faith-based Schools holds its first leadership summit in New York City today, aiming to raise awareness about a fact too long overlooked: Faith-based schools in America’s inner cities are in trouble.
To that end, the commission will release its first report to the nation. “Religious Schools in America: A Proud History and Perilous Future” is part myth dispeller, part history lesson, part call to action. It compiles rarely seen data and offers a tight summary of the research regarding outcomes. Its introduction distills what’s at stake:
Faith-based schools are an extension of individual and family religious freedoms in America, tied to an expression of their rights of conscience and rooted deeply in America’s history. These schools—and the rights that they help to protect—are currently under severe financial strains that threaten the existence of many of them. The United States is an aberration among democracies because it does not provide public support for its families to choose a faith-based school when they wish to do so.
U.S. faith-based schools, despite suffering a severe financial disadvantage when compared with public schools and with faith-based schools in other Western democracies, are serving hundreds of thousands of students of color, students from low-income families, students with special needs, and students whose first language is not English.
Finally, faith-based schools are producing above-average academic results with fewer resources, in both traditional academic subjects and also in the development of the virtues of character, respect for differences, and citizenship.
Also today, the commission will unveil a new website stocked with data about religious schools. Compiled by researcher Vicki E. Alger, “Assembling the Evidence” includes a stack of charts, maps with state-by-state breakdowns, and a library with more than 4,000 reports, surveys, and research studies.