When the morning alarm rings, children across the country share the sometimes inevitable dread of going to school. But for kids in weary urban public school systems, that dread is compounded by days spent in buildings that are deteriorating, with teachers who are struggling to maintain an atmosphere conducive to learning, even as the threat of violence among students hangs in the air.
With this decidedly bleak picture as a backdrop, some Christian leaders are renewing their commitment to inner-city education. For example, in January Cardinal James Hickey announced a strategy to infuse new resources into Catholic schools in one of the nations most troubled districts: Washington, D.C.
In 1996, 65 percent of all the children tested in D.C. public schools scored below their grade levels for reading. From 1989 to 1995, 40 percent of students in grades 9 through 12 either dropped out or left for other school systems.
D.C. Catholic schools face their own obstacles, including aging facilities, diminished enrollment, and dwindling resources. Yet church leaders affirm the important role these schools can play in troubled communities. In announcing the initiative, Hickey said, "[Catholic schools] provide an atmosphere of safety, order, and caring for the children they serve. In this environment, effective learning can occur, faith can be shared, positive values imparted, and parents supported in the raising of their children."