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Teacher Salaries to Increase in Diocesan Schools

Catholic school officials in the Arlington Diocese this week confirmed recent reports indicating that teacher salaries and tuition rates will substantially increase in the diocesan school system beginning next school year. The move parallels similar developments announced last week by the Archdiocese of Washington for most of its 75 Catholic parish elementary schools in the District and Maryland. Details on when and how these increases will take place have yet to be outlined to the public, particularly to low income parents who worry about the effect that tuition increases will have on their lives and on the lives of their children if not enough aid is provided to them through scholarships and other programs. At a recent January meeting with principals, followed by a letter, diocesan Superintendent of Schools Dr. Timothy McNiff — who oversees more than 40 schools — revealed that Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde has given the green light to McNiff’s recommendation to raise teacher salaries by 10 percent each year for the next three years in elementary and high schools, starting with school year 2000-01. "In light of a teacher shortage in schools across the country, the challenge of teacher compensation was an aspect we had to look up," McNiff told the HERALD. "Bishop Loverde has approved a recommendation to have the minimum diocesan teacher scale increase by 10 percent each year for a 3-year period. In addition, a new principal salary scale was also created." Teachers working for diocesan elementary schools in Arlington told the HERALD they are pleased with the announcement. "This will help to retain our teachers," said Assistant Principal Elaine Prendergast of St. Agnes School in Arlington. Traditionally, teacher salaries have been much lower in Catholic schools than in public schools, leaving many educators with a difficult dilemma. An entry-level teacher at a Catholic school makes about $20,000 a year, an average of $10,000 less than a public school teacher. The salary differential has its roots based on the fact that not many years ago, Catholic education was mainly provided by religious women. Money for them was among the least of their priorities and needs in life. Vocations, however, have experienced a sharp decline over a period in which enrollment in Catholic schools has increased at record levels. Many new schools have been built and religious personnel is no longer a majority. Student enrollment in diocesan elementary schools jumped from 10,735 in 1994-95 to 13,398 for school year 1999-2000. Data for school year 1997-98 in Arlington indicated that 1,947 families were on a waiting list, a 36 percent increase over the previous two years. David E. Conroy, principal of All Saints School in Manassas, with 505 students, said, "it goes without saying that teachers are all very pleased and grateful to the diocese with the news." McNiff said, "This increase to the diocesan salary scale will only affect those schools and teachers that presently subscribe to the compensation scale published by the Office of Catholic Schools. For those schools whose teachers salaries already exceed these guidelines, they are not mandated to give the same salary increase for next year." Asked about the effect that tuition increases will have, Conroy said meeting the needs of low-income families "is the challenge the schools are going to face." Some Hispanic activists regarded these school developments not so much as a right or wrong matter, but as something that, they said, is justified. Onofre Guti?rrez from Blessed Sacrament Parish in Alexandria, said teacher salary increases are past due in Catholic schools. But Guti?rrez told the HERALD he and other Hispanic lay and religious leaders in the diocese are concerned about the burden that tuition increases will have. "The Church does not produce as many priests as before," said Guti?rrez, "and consequently there is a reduced number of teacher-priests as well." Guti?rrez and Father Ovidio Pecharrom?n of the Spanish Apostolate met with Superintendent McNiff last December, to discuss ways of creating scholarship opportunities and other programs for students with a demonstrated track record of discipline and academic achievement. Conroy added that parishioners at All Saints Parish and elsewhere in the diocese "will continue to re-evaluate their commitment to the Church, not only financially but also in terms of time" in support of their parochial schools. "It is up to each parish to determined how the increase in teacher salaries will be funded," McNiff said.

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