With a newly announced commitment of more than $90 million to several Catholic schools over the next 10 years, the Archdiocese of Chicago and the Big Shoulders Fund intend to ensure these schools will remain in their communities.
The funds will benefit 30 schools, mostly on Chicago's South and West sides, serving 5,600 children.
Under the agreement, the Big Shoulders Fund will provide $47.5 million to the schools, with the Archdiocese of Chicago committing $44.9 million to the same schools.
"Our Catholic schools are true beacons of hope changing lives, developing engaged citizens and contributing to the common good of our great city," Chicago Cardinal Blase J. Cupich said.
"Through this historic agreement, the Archdiocese of Chicago and Big Shoulders Fund will strengthen our efforts to provide the lifelong benefits of a Catholic education to Chicago-area children and society at large," he said. "I am very grateful to the Big Shoulders Fund and donors for their decades-long support of archdiocesan schools and school families."
The agreement also calls for the Big Shoulders Fund to take a leadership role in helping principals manage everything from academic programming to marketing.
It marks a new moment in the 35-year partnership between the archdiocese and the fund, which was created to support Catholic schools in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods.
"Schools are prosperous where we have partnerships," Cardinal Cupich said Jan. 30 at St. Genevieve School, a day after the historic funding agreement was announced. He said the Big Shoulders Fund has provided nearly $400 million to Chicago Catholic schools over the 35 years it has been in existence.
The cardinal visited the school, which is among the 30 that will receive the funding, with leaders from the Big Shoulders Fund.
The new partnership will expand Big Shoulders' financial commitment and its involvement in the way schools operate. It also calls for Big Shoulders to assume the risk if schools need more aid than is already planned.
"I benefited from Catholic schools," Cardinal Cupich said. "So did my brothers and sisters. It was life-changing. I want to make sure it's made available to kids and their families."
Msgr. Kenneth Velo, co-chairman of the Big Shoulders Fund, said the money is an investment in the communities the schools serve.
"We don't have donors," Msgr. Velo said. "We have investors, and they are investing in the parents and the teachers and especially the children in these communities. They don't have to worry about next year, because we will be here."
Amanda Parker, the principal of St. Genevieve School, said knowing that the school will remain open for the next 10 years gives parish and school leaders breathing room.
"This allows us to think more broadly about what we want to do to move forward and how to provide the best education we can," she said.
Cardinal Cupich noted that the amount the archdiocese is providing to the 30 schools will remain relatively constant. The archdiocese also will likely provide another $90 million to its other schools over the same period, he said.
However, the archdiocese's commitment to keep that funding level for 30 schools over the next 10 years is something new, said Josh Hale, Big Shoulders' president and chief executive officer.
"There is no diocese in the country that I know of that has made a commitment like this," he said.
Big Shoulders still must raise the necessary funds, Hale said.
The agreement takes effect immediately and will support the 2019-2020 school year budget.
Leaders touted the role Catholic schools play in the lives of not only their students, but also their neighborhoods.
"For generations, these schools have prepared students for college, career and life. Alumni go on to study, work, volunteer and donate at rates higher than their peers," Hale said. "But, even more, this investment by our supporters is about strengthening neighborhoods that are enriched by these community-based organizations remaining places of hope and reasons to stay in the city."
"This is a good day for Catholic schools, and a good day for the city," said Jim Rigg, Catholic schools superintendent.