Washington Archdiocese Sets Record Straight

Published March 1, 2003

Dr. Patricia Weitzel-O’Neill, Superintendent of Catholic Schools in the Archdiocese of Washington, has responded to criticisms voiced by Peggy Cooper Cafritz at a Cato Institute Policy Forum in December that were printed in last month’s issue of School Reform News (“DC Schools Chief Blasts Scholarship Program”). Cafritz charged that privately funded scholarship programs dupe black parents into sending their children to “inferior Catholic schools,” and that “The parochial school system in this city has not received the kind of investment from the Catholic Church that’s necessary to have sterling schools.”

“We Invest in the Children of Our City”

Statements by Peggy Cooper Cafritz, president of the District of Columbia Board of Education, in your article, “DC Schools Chief Blasts Scholarship Program,” February 2003, attacking Catholic schools were unfortunate. Also unfortunate was the fact that no comment was sought in response from the Catholic Church.

Not only are all parochial Catholic schools in the District accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools, but these schools successfully serve a diverse group of students, more than 65 percent of whom are non-white and 59 percent non-Catholic. We invest in the children of our city. In fall 2002, two new Catholic schools opened in the District for at-risk youth. More than seven D.C. Catholic schools have had major renovations or expansions in the past two years.

Most of the renovations have been made at schools in the Archdiocese of Washington’s Center City Consortium, a group of 11 elementary schools in the city’s most financially challenged neighborhoods. Nearly 100 percent of Consortium school graduates are accepted at Catholic high schools and nearly 99 percent of our Catholic high school graduates go on to college. Fifty percent of students in our Consortium schools come from families below the poverty level and 70 percent are from single parent homes. Yet these students are excelling and happy.

Public, parochial, private, or charter schools, we all need to work together to give students the best education possible and offer families choices to make sure this happens. We are proud of the faith and values-education we offer our children. Our results speak for themselves.

Patricia Weitzel-O’Neill, Ph.D. is Superintendent of Catholic Schools in the Archdiocese of Washington.