More signs of a Catholic school comeback

News about Catholic schools in the U.S. usually isn’t good. Rarely a week goes by without a headline about another one closing and, with it, a neighborhood institution that for generations brought high-quality education to often low-income families. So what a nice change to see another local story about a Catholic school in Tampa, for years on the brink of closing, making a comeback.

Thanks to hard work and grit and a growth in tax-credit scholarships. St. Peter Claver recruited 163 students this year, up from 102 las year, according to today’s Bay News 9 (which also took this photo). Ninety percent received tax credit scholarships, which are only available to families who qualify for free- or reduced-price lunch.

Increasingly, St. Peter Claver isn’t an anomaly. The Wall Street Journal reported in June that, “Fo the first time in decades, Catholic education is showing signs of life.” It continued: “Driven by expanding voucher programs, outreach to Hispanic Catholics and donations by business leaders, Catholic schools in several major cities are swinging back from closures and declining enrollment.”

On a related note, another Tampa Bay area Catholic school, Sacred Heart in Pinellas Park, is holding a celebration this weekend to highlight its new partnership with the Notre Dame ACE Academies. As we’ve written before, the Notre Dame group is moving to take Catholic schools to a higher level, and it is using a couple of Tampa Bay schools as a model. Tax credit scholarships are key to its efforts to boost enrollment, particularly among Hispanics.

On an education landscape with more private options, these are signs of healthy ferment.

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BY Ron Matus

Ron Matus is director for policy and public affairs at Step Up for Students and a former editor of redefinED. He joined Step Up in February 2012 after 20 years in journalism, including eight years as an education reporter with the Tampa Bay Times (formerly the St. Petersburg Times). Ron can be reached at or (727) 451-9830. Follow him on Twitter @RonMatus1 and on facebook at