We begin this new school year with great hope and lots of uncertainty. Across the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, our schools are open with our students at home, learning online.

Since the coronavirus lockdowns, our Catholic schools department has worked around-the-clock with teachers, principals, students, and parents, and we are proud to report that we have 262 schools open for the new academic year and we have 66,000 students eager and ready to learn.

But I am concerned. Even before the pandemic, the number of children seeking scholarships has continued to rise each year.

Behind the current drop in enrollment is the reality that this virus has devastated local economies and driven many of our families into crisis. Along with the pain and uncertainty our people are suffering, our parishes have been essentially closed now for almost six months. We estimate weekly offertory collections are down about 40 percent, meaning we have far less capacity to support our schools and needy students.

What we are experiencing here in Los Angeles is being felt in every local church nationwide. The economic downturn caused by the pandemic has already forced the permanent closure of nearly 140 of the nation’s more than 6,000 Catholic schools. Many hundreds more are at risk of closing or being forced to consolidate, and many of these are serving the nation’s poorest communities.

Catholic schools have long played an important role in building up inner-city neighborhoods and lifting minority families out of poverty. A recent study finds that a black or Latino child is 42% more likely to graduate high school and two-and-a-half times more likely to graduate from college if the child attends a Catholic school.

As faithful citizens, we need to urge our leaders to ensure that Catholic schools are included in any further coronavirus relief package, and they should provide emergency direct scholarship aid to low-income children attending Catholic and other independent schools.

Full story at Angelus News.