The Catholic Schools Office of the Diocese of Toledo is reaching out to Latino families in Lucas County to invite them to learn more about the benefits of a parochial school education. The effort is also receiving a boost from the Northwest Ohio Scholarship Fund and School Choice Ohio.
“Our focus is to try to reach entire families,” said Ann Riddle, executive director of the Northwest Ohio Scholarship Fund. “Many times, you have a family with more than one child.”
“There are so many kids out there,” said Andrea de la Roca, Latino outreach coordinator for the Catholic Schools Office.
The three groups hosted a breakfast meeting Saturday, Feb. 1 at Sts. Peter and Paul Church, 738 S St. Clair St., attended by nearly 20 families who collectively had 45 school-age children. That parish alone has 83 Latino families with more than 180 kids.
Representatives from Catholic schools, Adelante, Inc., and the Ohio State University Extension also participated.
A similar information session is scheduled Saturday, Feb. 22, also at Sts. Peter and Paul Church. After attending an informational session, parents are invited to participate in a bus tour March 2 to visit open houses at some of the Catholic schools. There will be space available on three buses, which will travel to Rosary Cathedral and St. Kateri. The event starts with a breakfast at Queen of Apostles School, followed by Mass at Sts. Peter and Paul Church—which also is where the buses will depart about 1:30 p.m. that day.
Only three percent of Latino school-age children attend Catholic schools, although they accounted for nearly one in five U.S. students just over a decade ago. The campaign’s goal is to double the percentage of Latinos attending Northwest Ohio Catholic schools to six percent by 2020.
According to Ms. de la Roca, who hails from Guatemala, even a one percent increase in the number of Latino children attending Catholic schools in Lucas County would equate to an enrollment jump of 263 new students. According to the 2010 census, the Latino population county-wide topped 26,000.
“There are open seats in Catholic schools,” said Ms. Riddle. “This serves a dual purpose: it fills open seats and provides a wonderful opportunity to families who may not even know the funding is available—because of language barriers or nobody has really reached out. There are many scholarships available that they may know nothing about.”
The information and outreach campaign is a direct result of a large meeting held about a year ago for Catholic schools administrators, educators, and parish priests at The Pinnacle in Maumee to explore ways to better reach Latino families across the diocese—and attract their children as students at parochial schools.
“It was very interesting and encouraging,” said Ms. de la Roca, who was doing an internship at the time at a Catholic school in Napoleon and found out the diocese would be hiring a Hispanic outreach coordinator. She started with the diocese last August.
“It really opened my eyes,” said Ms. Riddle.
There are two education-related vouchers now available through the state of Ohio. The EdChoice voucher is offered to families whose children attend a poorly-performing public school. Students can also qualify for the EdChoice Expansion voucher if they are entering kindergarten or first grade for the 2014-2015 academic year and their family is at 200 percent of the federal poverty level.
“You can get up to $4,200 for elementary school, which is more than enough to cover the tuition at most of these schools,” explained Ms. Riddle.
Ms. de la Roca stated many Latino parents are not aware that their children are attending underperforming schools, particularly in large, urban districts such as Toledo.
“Many of them were surprised their school was there (on the list),” she said.
Ms. de la Roca gave one example of a Latino mom who had four of her six children attending Riverside Elementary School. An appointment already has been made with St. Kateri, where all six children can attend together.
“This is all information that’s readily available online, but many parents don’t know where to look for it or parents don’t even know,” said Ms. Riddle. “Most of the time parents assume that the school at the corner is fine.”
“What I found out is many parents have this perception ‘Oh, I’m in the United States. Anywhere I send my kids for education is going to be fine’ and that’s not true,” added Ms. de la Roca. “My job is to show them there are other options.”
Catholic school officials will file the proper paperwork with the Ohio Dept. of Education, which pays the school directly. There are currently 18 Toledo Public Schools buildings which comprise a list of voucher-eligible schools which are on academic emergency.
The list of EdChoice-designated schools within TPS include16 K-8 buildings and two high schools, Scott and Woodward. The elementaries include: Chase STEM Academy, East Broadway, Glenwood, Keyser, Leverette, Marshall, McKinley, McTigue, Pickett, Reynolds, Riverside, Robinson, Rosa Parks, Samuel M. Jones at Gunckel Park, Sherman, and Spring.
Lorna McLain, the northern Ohio director of School Choice Ohio, also is a bilingual Latina who is able to help Spanish-speaking parents receive more information about education options for their children. She attended last Saturday’s session.
The Northwest Ohio Scholarship Fund is a need-based program that covers K-8 parochial school tuition for families that do not receive an Ed Choice Ohio voucher to pick up the cost. Meeting that funding gap makes it possible for many more Latino families to send their children to a Catholic school. Currently, nine percent of the fund-sponsored children are Latino—but the agency wants to see that number grow to 12 percent. Seven families applied for that scholarship immediately after the first information session.
For more information about the Latino outreach project, parents can contact Ms. de la Roca directly at 419.244.6711 or [email protected].