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PR- 062-09
February 7, 2009


Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio and Deputy Mayor for Education and Community Development Dennis Walcott met today at City Hall where they announced that the City of New York and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn will explore the possible conversion of some Catholic Schools into publicly funded charter schools as a pilot program, subject to consultation with the schools involved. Any measures would also make possible the conversion of other parochial and private schools. Such a move is unprecedented in New York City but was successfully implemented in Washington DC last year.

"Many Catholic schools are finding it hard stay open because of tighter budgets and falling enrollment, even as they remain attractive to so many families because of their focus on high academic standards and high student achievement," Mayor Bloomberg said.  "Many if not most of the students would be likely to seek admission in Brooklyn and Queens public schools that  are already at or near capacity, which gives us all a shared interest in finding innovative ways to keep these school doors open."

"This only furthers the cooperation between the Diocese of Brooklyn and the City of New York," said Bishop DiMarzio. "The Diocese provides various social services and educational services, such as Head Start programs through Catholic Charities of Brooklyn and Queens, and now we will look to cooperate in providing other educational services through independent Charter Schools."

The Diocese of Brooklyn plans to announce soon the consolidation and closing of some of its schools. The pilot program to convert to charter schools could save four that might otherwise close. Converting Catholic schools to charter schools is not without precedent. Facing similar challenges, seven Catholic Schools in Washington, D.C. converted to public charter schools last year. 

Over the past decade, Brooklyn and Queens Catholic schools have seen increased operational costs and declining enrollment which have threatened their survival. The average household income of a New York City Catholic School student is $32,000. More than 20 percent of Catholic School students in Brooklyn are not Catholic.

Mayor Bloomberg and Bishop DiMarzio outlined the joint principles they share about how this conversion should occur, including:

  • The school buildings that house these schools would remain the property of the parishes in the Diocese of Brooklyn.

  • Students now enrolled in the schools would be guaranteed admission into the new charter schools.

  • New students would be admitted through the lottery process now employed by existing charter schools.

  • The program would be broad enough to encompass other parochial and private school conversions in New York City.

  • Religious instruction will continue to be prohibited in the curriculum of these and all other public schools.

Charter schools are public schools governed by not-for-profit boards of trustees. They are subject to New York State educational standards, and can be closed if student performance or operational goals are not met.  Last year, students in New York City charter schools outperformed students in other public schools around the City and the State. More than 84 percent of charter school students met or exceeded grade-level standards in math, compared to more than 74 percent of students Citywide, and 80.7 percent of students Statewide met or exceeded standards. In English Language Arts, 67.1 percent of charter school students met or exceeded grade-level standards, compared to 57.6 percent of students Citywide, and 68.5 percent of students Statewide met or exceeded standards.


Stu Loeser / Jason Post / Dawn Walker   (212) 788-2958

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