Catholic schools receive no government funds, of course, but students, eligible teachers and their families receive many of the same services provided for all U.S. students. Accessing these services, however, takes vigilant persistence and, sometimes, a little reminding, says Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet Patricia Supple, director of federal and state programs for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles’ Department of Catholic Schools.
Sister Supple has been supervising government-funded programs for archdiocesan Catholic Schools for 21 years. Her background includes several years in Catholic elementary and secondary schools before taking on her present assignment. She speaks softly, but carries some serious “clout” among educational fiscal gatekeepers.
“Please don’t have Sister call me,” a public school district programs’ supervisor recently joked to an archdiocesan Catholic school principal who was making sure her students were receiving their fair share of services.
“District administrators know I might call the state, but I save that for special occasions,” said Sister, smiling. Her two decades communicating with officials means when she tells Sacramento, “I don’t think this is right,” about practices in a particular school district, things usually get righted very quickly. She is assisted in this important work by two highly qualified part-time specialists, Christine Hayashi and Ursula deHernandez.
“Under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), currently known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB), we are not direct recipients of federal funding,” noted Sister Supple. Under this Act, the children of the archdiocese receive services through the local school district but the schools do not receive any direct funds.
She points out that federal money, like funding for NCLB, is divvyed up at the federal level to states based on formulas that heavily weigh, among other things, the percentage of children living in poverty. The money is then divided among a state’s school districts based on formulas that also take into consideration the poverty factor within each public school district.
“Schools of the archdiocese receive services and materials, software and hardware, through the local public school districts, and we have our schools in 73 different public school districts in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles,” said Sister Supple.
With 45 percent of archdiocesan elementary schools located in the L.A. Unified School District, financial allocations are pooled to provide programs and services at those 126 Catholic schools within the Los Angeles public school district.
The main programs include:
- Title I, offering services for students who are having academic difficulties or who are at risk of failing or actually failing. Credentialed public school teachers are sent to schools with the Title I program to tutor children at academic risk.
- Title II, providing professional development to teachers. Funding for this title is generated by the number of students enrolled in a school. Teachers receive professional development in core academic subjects and in effective instructional training strategies.
- Title III, generated by students identified as “English language learners” who speak another language at home. Services for these students usually involve providing in-service for Catholic school teachers in how to improve children’s academic deficits related to learning subjects in English, their non-native language.
At the beginning of each school year, Sister Supple sends out a letter to the superintendent of each of the 73 public school districts within the L.A. archdiocese, covering the three counties of Los Angeles, Ventura and Santa Barbara. It is the archdiocese’s formal notification to the public school superintendents that the Catholic schools in their district want to participate in all the appropriate programs.
Sister Supple has a monthly meeting with L.A. Unified’s Title I and Title II program directors while a part-time specialist meets with Title III and special education officials. “We’re down there constantly to meet with them one-on-one to keep on top of things. They know us very well,” said Sister Supple.
“It’s a challenge to hold on to these programs and services,” said Sister of St. Louis Breege Boyle, associate director of schools for the Diocese of San Diego who spends about 40 percent of her time overseeing government-funded programs and services for Catholic schools in 21 districts in two counties: San Diego and Imperial.
When she started her current position in 2000, the former elementary school principal and teacher found that diocesan schools were benefitting from Title I allocations but not Title II’s programs for teacher professional growth. Knowing Sister Supple’s success with pooling resources for Catholic schools in the L.A. Unified School District, she decided to approach the San Diego Unified School District about doing the same for students in the 19 Catholic schools in the district.
Her persistence with local public school officials paid off and, a year later, following a meeting that she organized to bring program directors and Catholic school administrators together, Title II allocations were made available to the students.
“We’ve been able to give our teachers opportunities in professional development that we wouldn’t be able to have if we didn’t have Title II, and it’s their students who benefit in the end,” said Sister Boyle.
An added bonus, she notes, has been getting to know educators in the public school system. “We’re respecting one another as professionals; we’re not in competition. We’re all interested in students,” said Sister Boyle. “For me,” she added, “it’s a justice issue because our students generate the funds from the federal government so we’re using the allocations that we’ve earned.”