Religious and community leaders in Scranton, PA are poised to open a tuition-free Catholic school for low-income residents in the area. Crux reports on the proposed NativityMiguel School of Scranton, an initiative sponsored by two orders of Catholic Sisters and supported by many other local groups and institutions like the University of Scranton (h/t Michael Brendan Dougherty). Here’s how the school would function:
The Scranton school will follow the NativityMiguel model, which is used by 60 other schools nationwide. The model includes longer school days, an extended school year with summer programs, and opportunities for parent involvement. Fifth- through eighth-graders will attend the school tuition-free and receive support throughout high school.Organizers plan to start with one fifth-grade class this fall, with hopes of adding an additional grade each year, and in time, two classes in each grade. Founders estimate that the school, which will eventually have about 120 students, will cost about $1 million a year to operate. […]“We’re looking to help those who are not getting what they need,” [school president Robert] Angeloni said. “The middle grades are when you can dramatically improve the lives of students.”
This sounds like an excellent program—rigorous as well as generous—and the school’s president is exactly right to note that education reform needs to focus on the levels below college. The school is currently in a fundraising phase, and if all goes well, the NativityMiguel School of Scranton will be a textbook example of exactly the kind of richness that religious institutions can add to American civic life. That’s one reason why American culture and policy should respect religious institutions, giving them space to operate rather than limiting their influence or driving them out of the public sphere. Indeed, we’d like to see similar academic programs receive as much attention and support from the government as is helpful and possible. We wish NativityMiguel the best as it gets closer to opening, and we hope to see other initiatives like it in future.