Catholic Schools: Last Hour

There are 904 Catholic schools in Germany. Still. From 1 January 2019
      it is probably one less: The Johannes Prassek School in Lübeck, a flagship project in the
      Protestant North, then no longer as before by a Catholic foundation
      but by a local kita and hoard operator. The Archdiocese of Hamburg has the
      Foundation and thus also the school's subsidies deleted – and without help from the
      Church tax income is an ecclesiastical school in Germany hardly to finance. The
      Atmosphere of the Christian school, promises the new operator, should be preserved,
      But you can not call yourself a Catholic school – that was once.
            Catholic schools are the quiet giants in the German education system. After the state, the two churches are the largest school operators in Germany – and very popular. In parent surveys the schools perform well on a regular basis. The services are not getting fuller, leaving numbers are high, but at almost all church schools there are significantly more registrations than seats. Nowhere else does the Catholic Church so far penetrate the secular world. How long will these heavenly times continue?
            Some dioceses and orders could soon run out of money for their schools. Christ & Welt has spoken for this text with dozens of connoisseurs of the Catholic school system, not everyone wanted to be quoted: Anyone who talks openly about the situation, some fear, could cause fears in parents, students or teachers. But behind some doors is discussed: Where could there be a second Hamburg?
            The planned closure of up to eight schools in Hamburg has for the first time made it clear that success systems are not protected from the crisis. When the plans became known at the beginning of 2018, Hamburg's Catholics were completely unprepared, parents wrote to the pope, and prominent Hanseatic people wanted to run the schools on their own – as a school cooperative. The archdiocese refused. And on the next train, the Hamburgers also canceled the annual subsidy of one million for the Catholic Bernostiftung, which runs three schools in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania in addition to the Lübeck Johannes Prassek School. In the Catholic Diaspora, they say, it is the schools that keep the churches alive. Not the other way around. The new operator, the Kinderwege gGmbH, will run the school together with the foundation for some time, then the church withdraws completely.
            The majority of church schools in Germany are so-called substitute schools. They are therefore recognized by the state, but have greater freedom, choose their own staff and set their own priorities. In recent years, they also benefited from the private school boom in Germany. In the individualized society, more and more parents like it more decisively when choosing a school: For schools, it is no longer enough to teach maths, Germans or chemistry – it's about profile and image building.

This article is from TIME no. 38/2018. Here you can read the entire issue.

The Catholics have a starting advantage there: their profile is virtually God-given – the Christian value foundation as a unique selling point. The belief emerges in parent surveys for school choice rather later on. Parents are more likely to expect better teachers, a higher level of performance and a good learning environment. The schools know that: In addition to a wide range of working groups, an often two-week social internship is as natural as morning prayer. "We do not necessarily want to make things easier, but more enjoyable for the students," says a South German education specialist. Catholic schools should be "lighthouses," says the chairman of the German Bishops' Conference, Reinhard Kardinal Marx.
            So it could all stay as it is in God's educational institutions. But is that it? If you want to understand why the Catholic schools are superficially good but are in danger, you have to talk to Steffen Lipowski. The former teacher is director of the school foundation of the Diocese of Magdeburg and does not spend much time chatting, but rather quickly searches for his numbers. "That does not look so good, of course," says Lipowski. For: In recent years, the foundation has completed each year with a deficit: sometimes with 3.6 million euros, sometimes with 2.4 million euros minus. Lipowski and his people are in need of their reserves.
            Eight Catholic schools run Germany's second-smallest diocese. Including three high schools, one each in Halle, Dessau and Magdeburg. For the new school year they have already increased the school fees – from 95 to 135 euros.