Catholic Church’s Hold on Schools at Issue in Changing Ireland

Almost all state-funded primary schools — nearly 97 percent — are under church control, and Irish law allows them to consider religion the main factor in admissions. As a practical matter, that means local schools, already oversubscribed, often choose to admit Catholics over non-Catholics.

Source: Catholic Church’s Hold on Schools at Issue in Changing Ireland – The New York Times

Taking this article on face value, as the Times has been known to highlight anti-Catholic angles and gloss over the opposite opinion, this does seem ripe for change.

I’m not Irish and not from Ireland, so I won’t claim to have any solution or real opinion, but I’m curious about the following questions:

  • Is there any notion of private schools in Ireland? How are they funded?
  • If self/parent-funded, is there any tradition of modestly-priced private schools?
  • What percentage of pupils, all things being equal, would choose to attend a Catholic school if it was next-door to a secular school?
  • Is there a place for religious “charter schools”, schools that receive funding from the state but are not the primary schools in the area?

I’m Catholic, with a child in a Catholic school, married to someone on a Catholic school board in the United States. At least within Texas, Catholic schools are generally privately funded—there are some public grants that any school—Catholic or otherwise—can be awarded and there may be school lunch money out there that Catholic schools can tap into, I’m not sure. In any event, virtually all operations are funded privately.

This usually comes from parents, donors to the specific school, the diocese (the geographical grouping of individual churches), and, if attached to a specific parish, a local parish.

In our case, we pay out-of-pocket for our daughter’s education, while still paying property taxes to the local school district. Specifically, we paid approximately 130% of our private school tuition bill to the local school district.1

For Ireland, I’m interested in what something similar would look like, the issues that it would generate, and any type of transitionary model.

  1. Granted, we have five kids. As soon as starts school, the local tax bill would be less. 






3 responses to “Catholic Church’s Hold on Schools at Issue in Changing Ireland

  1. Donncha Avatar

    The article is right. Nearly all state funded schools are under church rule here in Ireland and it’s not a good situation to be in. There have been cases where schools have picked Catholic children instead of (or before) non-Catholic children. A Catholic bishop criticised parents who baptised their children just so they would get a place a school, while completely missing the point at the school is funded by tax payer money..

    There are private secondary schools (think high schools) but I don’t know if there are many private primary schools.
    Sort of. My father was involved with a school in a disadvantaged area where I’m not sure where funding came from but I think it took them many years to get some sort of “official status” and get state funding for all the teachers and buildings they needed. This wasn’t a private school at all though. The area was very poor.
    I suspect that a majority would choose to send their kids to a secular school. I would. The marriage referendum last year showed the Irish population aren’t afraid to say no the the will of the Church. Being Catholic is just a cultural thing for most people here. I’m sure they believe in God but they probably haven’t really thought much about it. Church attendance is way down on what it used to be.
    There used to be charter schools here, under British rule mostly –

    I think most parents here would not pay to send their kids to a Catholic school if there was an equally good secular school next door. We probably pay much higher taxes in general than you do and it’s expected that primary schooling is “free” (schools always look for donations, or a small “administration” fee) and paid from those taxes.

    You’ll find more useful reading in this FB group and this article I found in that group talks about the reason the church actually has any influence in schools, it’s rule 68. Hopefully that will change with time.

    1. Brandon Kraft Avatar

      Thanks for the links! Being in the modern-day States, it really is hard for me to fathom that kind of church-state integration. While I do think that the school we send O to is better, for us, because of the religious ethos around it, I don’t see that feasible across the board nor something that should be forced. Likewise, being Catholic, I wouldn’t really want to send my kiddo to a school that is, say, Jewish or Islamic in nature.

      It would likely be an interesting transition. It brought to mind a story from my dad’s hometown. It is a tiny little rural town with a public K-12 school and a Catholic K-12 school. When he was in school, the public school provided transportation for both schools (pick up all kids at their farms and then make a drop at the public, then another at the Catholic school). The public school wanted to end the arrangement, which led to all of the parents who depended on the arrangement to enroll in the public school. The public school couldn’t handle the influx and reversed their decision until a better arrangement could be forged. I would imagine that Rule 68 and the problems that exist can’t be solved overnight, but hopefully, will be efficiently that nets positive for everyone.

    2. Brandon Kraft Avatar

      Oh, for the sake of saying, I don’t equate Catholic/private schools in the state with weathly. The Catholic high school my wife worked at focused on a lower socioeconomic bracket—many kids who parents ever graduated high school and don’t speak English. The kids had an internship program where they worked at local offices (think law offices, hospital administration) to get experience in a professional environment and the companies paid the school to partly offset the tuition.

      The only public money was a Federal grant that, basically, paid for parent education programming (citizenship classes, English as a Second Language courses), and some after school programs for the kids. The current building is a “loaner” from an unaffiliated parish and lacks hot water. It’s accredited by all the right departments, just chugging along finding money where they can :).

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