Campaign will bolster Catholic schools, enhance teachers’ salaries

Superintendent of Catholic School Janet Eaton says she has witnessed “miracles of faith formation with our young people many times over – true miracles.” (Advance file photo)

One key component of the upcoming diocesan capital campaign, One Family, Fully Alive in Christ!, is enhancing teachers’ salaries in every Catholic school across the diocese.

The campaign will seek $15 million to establish 38 new school-based endowments to provide long-term sustainable funding. The goal is to supplement stewardship of treasure at the parish level and help Catholic schools keep pace with salary increases in local public schools.

“The stewardship way of life depends on the continued goodwill of our parishioners,” Superintendent of Catholic Schools Janet Eaton said. “The people of this diocese are extremely generous, but it’s difficult to see how their generosity can keep pace with the large increases in the public sector.”

Salary booster needed

While parish stewardship remains the primary source of funding for Catholic schools, the diocese and its parishes are seeking additional resources to bolster salaries and help close the pay gap, now and in the future.

The new endowments are one step in that direction.

“A starting salary in local public school districts was around $46,000 this year,” Eaton said. “Our parishes simply cannot afford that – a starting salary in many parish schools is about $36,000. We want to do better.”

Catholic school salaries slipping

Catholic school salaries in the Diocese of Wichita are currently 70 to 77 percent of the public school pay scale. Ten years ago that number was 85 to 90 percent.

In Kansas, there is already a significant shortage of teachers, with more than 1,400 open teaching positions across the state. “In an environment where teachers are already in such high demand, we need to keep our Catholic schools as competitive as possible,” Eaton said.

“Increasing their pay is just one more way for us to recruit and retain the best educators we can. It is my hope that this campaign will shine a spotlight on the remarkable work our teachers are doing every day.”

As the diocese looks to further bolster its Catholic schools, diocesan leaders are highlighting why our schools are important in the first place. Over the past year and a half, Eaton has met with teachers, principals, and school staff across the diocese to evaluate the state of Catholic education and plan the path forward.

Forming disciples

“A hallmark of Catholic education is that of forming the next generation of disciples,” she said. “Our Lord is orchestrating that in our Catholic schools. I absolutely believe and see that his love, mercy, and grace are inspiring a renewal and an intentional path for the formation of young people.”

“Our Catholic teachers and principals have the joy and the responsibility to lead the formation of the students entrusted to their care,” Eaton said. “In my time in this diocese, I have witnessed miracles of faith formation with our young people many times over – true miracles.” Catholic schools in the Diocese of Wichita have a good understanding of where they are and where they are going, she said.

“The foresight to celebrate the rich learning that takes place every day is important, all the while continuing to focus on where the next opportunity for growth lies. Learning, experiencing, and celebrating the faith come first in all that we do. This is followed by the determination to offer the students an academic focus that allows students of all levels to excel.”

Faith formation, academics

In addition to excellent faith formation, local Catholic schools certainly also offer a high-quality education.

The State of Kansas has awarded Wichita diocesan schools with the Commissioner’s Award with Honors, one of only 15 school systems in the state to receive that recognition.

The award seeks to “recognize those districts that outperform their predicted postsecondary effectiveness rate,” according to the Kansas State Department of Education. The state also has awarded diocesan schools the highest level of recognition for its high school graduation rate and post-secondary success. “All schools in Kansas take the Kansas State Assessment Test,” Eaton said.

“This gives us an understanding of our student progression. Yearly, our diocesan averages outscore other school systems in every subject matter and every grade level tested…what a remarkable achievement and result!” She credits outstanding, passionate teachers committed to the mission of Catholic education and the support of families for the success of the Catholic schools in the diocese.

A commitment to students

“Our Catholic school teachers make all the difference,” Eaton said.

“Their faith, dedication to our mission, and commitment to their students are real gifts to our Catholic community. They see their work as a vocation and a ministry, and this campaign is an opportunity for all of us to show them our gratitude for all they do.” Public school education has seen an unprecedented salary increase over the last six years which has made the task of finding and retaining good teachers doubly difficult for Catholic schools.

Pastors and school administrators will be able to use the funds from their school-based endowment each year to enhance teachers’ salaries. In addition to stewardship of treasure at the parish level, these endowments will provide much-needed funding for Catholic schools in perpetuity, laying a solid foundation for the future.

“While significant, this campaign and the $15 million it will raise for new school-based endowments are just a starting point,” Eaton said. “There will be many, many opportunities to build and grow these endowments and further strengthen our Catholic schools for current and future generations. Years from now, we’ll look back with a deep sense of pride for what we have accomplished for our Catholic schools and the families they serve.”