parochial school

(redirected from Church schools)
Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus.

parochial school

(pərō`kēəl), school supported by a religious body. In the United States such schools are maintained by a number of religious groups, including Lutherans, Seventh-day Adventists, Orthodox Jews, Muslims, and evangelical Protestant churches. However, the most numerous are those attached to Roman Catholic parishes.

The Catholic parochial school system developed in the 19th cent. as a response to what was then seen as Protestant domination of the public school system in the United States. A group of American bishops met in the Third Plenary Council of Baltimore (1884) to plan for the establishment of a comprehensive parochial school system. Local churches were directed to establish elementary schools for the education of the parish children. In time a number of secondary, or high, schools, supported by a diocese and encompassing a number of parish schools, were also established. Both the elementary and secondary schools developed a religious curriculum emphasizing Catholic doctrine along with a secular curriculum very similar to that of the public schools.

During the middle of the 20th cent., much of parochial education's traditional structure began to change. The ecumenical spirit generated by the Second Vatican Council (1962–65) convinced many Roman Catholics that the religious education of the parochial school was too separatist. Moreover, parochial schools suffered from the criticism that public schools provided a better secular education at less cost. Because of such criticisms, parochial schools were forced to hire lay teachers, who came to account for an increasingly larger proportion of the faculty. Beginning in the mid-1960s, Roman Catholic schools began to encounter severe financial problems; many parish schools were closed and the Catholic school population dropped sharply.

Although parochial schools still account for the bulk of the attendance at private schools in the United States, their loss of students and their financial difficulties have forced them to seek aid from public sources, most often in the form of tax subsidies or credits for the parents of parochial school children. Under the "child-benefit theory," government aid has been provided to the students of parochial schools, rather than to the schools themselves; by means of this compromise, the constitutional provision against aid to religious institutions is circumvented. In a number of cases, however, the U.S. Supreme Court has decided against state laws providing such aid to parochial schools, claiming that they violate the principle of separation between church and state.


See N. McCluskey, Catholic Education Faces Its Future (1968); R. Shaw and R. Hurley, ed., Trends and Issues in Catholic Education (1969); H. Buetow, Of Singular Benefit: The Story of U.S. Catholic Education (1970).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
'All the evidence locally and nationally shows church schools are very popular, offering a spiritual, moral and cultural growth as well as exam-based learning.'
In Wales, church schools do not serve churches - they serve communities, boasting a wide variety of different cultural flavours.
A strong turnout among the 27 trustees again voted to oppose any move towards becoming a church school, with just one abstention.
I believe that every school should have its own ethos, which is why we support the church schools. For many parents they offer the bestopportunity for a top class education for their children.
Mr Williams, who taught at Whitchurch High School in Cardiff before retiring and who lives in Mountain Ash, said he had seen educational segregation in both areas caused by church schools.
The day celebrates the foresight and generosity of the Rev Nicholas Chamberlaine who left money for the provision of church schools.
``We see this as a new and significant part of our education work in the diocese and we welcome the opportunity to support not only over 50 church schools but all schools in North Wales,'' said the Bishop.
Ofsted also reports that Church schools have been less likely to require special measures or to have serious weaknesses than other schools.
He said, ``Dearing was right to say bluntly that Church schools are a tool of mission - for those who want their children to keep hold of some sense of an integrated moral and spiritual life, even if they do not sub-scribe fully to the belief system the school represents.
YOUNGSTERS from church schools across Coventry and Warwickshire have been exploring the journey of life through a series of dramatic presentations at Coventry Cathedral.
'In so many of our inner cities by far the best chance for parents to obtain a top-class education for their children is precisely the church school. I think our church schools do a great job, and I warn politicians who want to mess with them to keep their hands off.'
As such, it has the potential to be a landmark ruling, either by giving churches and church schools new access to the public treasury or reaffirming existing First Amendment safeguards.