As our state continues to discuss strengthening our public education system, it is worth looking at a system that is working today in educating and developing almost 2,400 Treasure Valley students for college and a lifetime quest to achieve excellence in learning, service and life. That system is our Idaho Catholic schools.
Exciting new things are happening in our Treasure Valley Catholic schools. St. Ignatius Catholic School in Meridian opened its doors this year and is already at capacity, with a waiting list. Bishop Kelly High School is expanding with a new STEAM wing (science, technology, engineering, art and math) that will open this August.
There has been much in the press lately about school choice. Catholic schools represent the largest alternative to the public education system in our state and in our country. It is important to understand what these Catholic schools in our communities provide. They are significant contributors to our American society with high academic standards, high graduation rates, and a high percentage of students “going on” to and completing college, all supported by strong moral values, deep faith and a commitment to social justice. And this is all accomplished in a safe, caring and compassionate environment.
The goal of our Catholic schools is to make Catholic education accessible to anyone who wishes to attend. Our students represent diverse ethnicities and cultures. One-fourth of our students come from faith traditions other than Catholic, and 25 percent receive some form of need-based financial aid.
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School choice does not mean abandoning or weakening the commitment we share and support through our tax dollars to the public school system. Plus, we save public schools in Idaho the cost of educating over 3,600 students currently enrolled in Catholic schools. Providing scholarships for families based on need through tax credits for corporations or individuals who wish to support these scholarships is a just and humane thing to do, and it will not harm public schools.
Students in Catholic schools perform well: 100 percent of Bishop Kelly’s 191 graduates from the class of 2017 went on to college, with 96 percent of these graduates going to four-year colleges/universities. Over 82 percent of those 191 graduates were offered merit-based scholarships that totaled $22 million. Our average test scores put us in the top 10 percent of the country and among the top scores in the state of Idaho. Over 75 percent of our student body participates in an extracurricular activity, and last year BK won six academic state championships and five athletic state championships.
Catholic schools are preparing students to be the future leaders in our communities, businesses and professions. Catholic schools really are the choice you can believe in.
Rich Raimondi is president of Bishop Kelly High School. Sarah Quilici is superintendent of Catholic schools, Diocese of Boise.