Religious Charter Schools
This qualitative study was exploratory and analyzed an emerging form of schooling - "religious" charter schools - within the context of urban Catholic elementary education in America. Specifically, it examined the perceptions of Catholic school superintendents related to this form of schooling. The study investigated if a common understanding of religious charter schools was salient among Catholic school superintendents. In addition, it analyzed the perceptions of Catholic school superintendents related to the benefits and challenges to this type of school in a Catholic context. The research design was a basic qualitative research study. The data collection methods used were the distribution of a semi-structured questionnaire and the conducting of follow-up open-ended interviews. A descriptive contemporary historical analysis of the relevant literature on religious charter schools was a component of the research design and influenced the development of the semi-structured questionnaire and open-ended interview protocol. The synthesis of the literature on religious charter schools is the first of its kind in a Catholic school context. The findings of this study indicate that while the religious charter school terminology is problematic in a Catholic context, the concept of such schools are perceived to be potentially beneficial, but challenging to implement in practice. The clear benefit to religious charter schools in a Catholic context is perceived as financial. This perception was shared by the superintendents against the backdrop of the current closing crisis faced by many urban Catholic elementary schools in the United States. The most likely beneficial scenario that emerged from this study is the leasing of former Catholic school facilities to charter schools and subsequently developing "wraparound" religious education programs. Developing positive relationships with charter schools may result in additional income for struggling urban parishes as well as opening new doors for religious education programming and outreach to the urban poor. Challenges to religious charter schools in a Catholic context include church and state complications related to public funding, religious identity issues, legal concerns and the fact that they are not Catholic schools.