Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Catholic school families find results more than compensate for sacrifices

by Jami LeBrun, Inland Register staff

(From the Aug. 19, 2004 edition of the Inland Register)

As the Catholic school year looms nearer, so do those tuition payments. And as finances get tight, many families begin to ask themselves if it is worth it. But for most families, the value of Catholic education far surpasses any financial restraints placed on the family. For some couples with young children just beginning their Catholic education, the financial obligation can seem a bit overwhelming, but their commitment to Catholic education is often just as strong as the experienced parents who are accustomed to writing a tuition check each year.

“It’s worth it just for the religious content each day,” said Lerria Schuh. She and her husband Tony have three young children enrolled in St. Charles School for this coming year. The children’s ages range from pre-school to second grade.

Schuh is bubbling with praise for St. Charles School and for Catholic education on a whole. Phenomenal teachers, high parent involvement, and a higher moral accountability for students are just a few of the positive experiences Schuh attributes to her family’s Catholic School experience. Though paying tuition is not always easy, Schuh believes there are some positive results from the struggle to pay.

“The financial commitment produces families who are really invested in their kids and their kid’s education,” she said. “It produces a different kind of community than you find in a public school.”

Catholic school veterans Sue and Mike Harrell have had their nine children in Catholic schools since 1983, and the end is just barely visible on the horizon. In eight years, their youngest son, now a fourth grader at St. Mary School, will graduate from Gonzaga Prep. Despite financial constraints, the Harrells have remained committed to Catholic education for their children for over 20 years.

“There’s so much more room for faith development and dialogue in religion classes,” said Sue Harrell. “The discipline experience is more consistent because families come from the same faith backgrounds, and if they don’t, they know what it is up front.”

Harrell said that the Fair Share program and the Grace of God have made Catholic education for their children possible. Both St. Mary School and Gonzaga Prep have Fair Share programs which allow families to adjust their payments according to what they are able to pay that year. Harrell said that one year she and her husband had five kids in St. Mary all at the same time. “We were lucky to be in a community where they support (Faith Share),” she said.

Sue Harrell has taught in both public and Catholic schools. “The academic standard is higher,” she said.

So far, three of the Harrell’s nine children have completed their college education. Their oldest daughter recently received her Dictorate in Research Science. Another child just completed a Master’s Degree, and another just finished undergraduate studies. Their son, Sean, is a sophomore at Gonzaga University and a seminarian for the Spokane Diocese.

Despite the decades separating the Schuh’s first child from the Harrell’s first child, their reasons enrolling their children in Catholic schools are similar. Both families want their children to receive an education that affirms the values they are learning at home. They want a safe community where parents are active, teachers are committed and the academic standards are high. Both families have found that environment in the Catholic schools and both believe the attached price tag is worth it.

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