Teacher salary increases were a top priority listed by both parents and teachers in recent surveys collecting feedback as part of the All Things New pastoral planning initiative. Seventy-nine percent of parents said they would support an increase in tuition for teachers’ salaries to increase.
More than 10,000 parents and guardians and about 1,900 teachers filled out the October school surveys, which included multiple-choice and open-ended questions about their experiences and preferences regarding Catholic education.
On the topic of tuition, 73% of parents preferred a tiered tuition scale for families, based on the number of the family’s children enrolled in the school. Asked about affordable tuition ranges for the first-child rate, one-third of parents chose less than $5,000 as affordable; another 33% chose $5,000-$6,000, while 9% chose $6,000-$7,000 as affordable. The remaining 25% said they would pay the “needed tuition for quality religious education and a competitive teacher compensation package.”
For the 2021-22 school year, the average tuition a parishioner paid for one child was about $5,200. That number ranged from $2,800 to $7,200 across elementary schools around the archdiocese, according to data from the Office of Catholic Education and Formation.
The archdiocese recently shared with school pastors recommendations for salary increases for all elementary school teachers. Since most elementary schools in the archdiocese operate under a parish governance model, the school’s parish makes final decisions about salaries.
While the archdiocese announced in November that it will postpone changes to elementary schools under All Things New until the 2024-25 school year, it did not want to delay taking steps toward a better teacher pay model.
Both the parent and teacher surveys asked about preferred class sizes, stating that “the class sizes which result from the All Things New initiative are likely to be larger in many of our Catholic schools than what they are currently.” Thirty-four percent of parents said they would not send their child to a school with classes larger than 20-25 students; 28% would not choose a school with classes larger than 25-30, and 19% would not consider class sizes larger than 30 (with a teacher’s aide).
On the teacher side, a clear 78% supported 20-25 students per classroom. Fourteen percent supported 25-30 students in a class, while just 2% supported 30+ with a teacher’s aide. Class size was not a concern for 19% of parents and 6% of teachers.
The surveys also asked for feedback about K-8 or multi-campus school models. Sixty-nine percent of parents and 53% of teachers said they support a school model that keeps grades K-8 together on one campus. Just 3% of parents and 7% of teachers preferred a school model that spans multiple campuses, while 28% of parents and 39% of teachers said they support either single-campus or multi-campus models.
The parent survey noted that 50% of current school families attend schools outside their parish boundaries. Fifty-nine percent of parents said they would be willing to drive 10 minutes for a Catholic education. Thirty percent would drive 20 minutes, 4% would drive 30 minutes, and 8% would drive “the necessary distance to attend a Catholic school.”
Regarding the celebration of Mass in schools, 74% of parents and 60% of teachers preferred a school Mass at least once a week, over options for twice-weekly or daily school Masses. For the sacrament of reconciliation, 53% of parents and 56% of teachers said they prefer reconcilation to be offered during Advent and Lent, with 26% and 21% choosing a monthly basis and 21% and 23% responding “as often as the school schedule allows.” About two-thirds of both parents and teachers said they support ongoing community service opportunites at school, as opposed to annual or quarterly service.
Both groups answered open-ended questions about positive school aspects that should continue and ideas for the “new” that could come with All Things New. Large numbers of both teachers and parents said that their Catholic schools offer a strong sense of community, and both groups chose teacher salary increases as a top priority moving forward, along with stronger faith formation and Catholic identity, increased educational resources to meet learning needs and more connection between the school, parish community and priests, among others.