Editor’s note: Daniel P. Schmidt, former vice president for program of The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation in Milwaukee, and Michael E. Hartmann, senior fellow and director of the Center for Strategic Giving at the Capital Research Center, recently spoke with Thomas W. Carroll about Catholic education and identity, creating a community of learners and believers, and the challenge of raising money for its mission in the current culture. Here are the results of their interview, which appear today on the Capital Research Center’s website. (You can listen to the interview here.
Thomas W. Carroll joined the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston’s Catholic Schools Office as superintendent in 2019, before which he held several positions at several various education-related nonprofits, including ones that ran schools and others that engaged in public-policy research and advocacy.
Carroll also was New York Gov. George Pataki’s deputy director for regulatory reform and played a leading role in the adoption of New York’s charter-school law.
The engaging Carroll is a principled and effective promoter and defender of school choice in general, and in his role as Boston Catholic schools’ superintendent, of Catholic education in particular. He believes the mission, properly understood and implemented, helps create community and academic outcomes, also helping students achieve eternal salvation, about which he is even more passionate.
“I think I bring to the job kind of a fresh set of eyes that’s different than if they hired a typical educator and see everything clearly, including all of its warts,” Carroll tells us. “We have an independent group called the Catholic Schools Foundation that raises roughly about, every year, $10 to $12 million in scholarships that gets spread across the Archdiocese, but with a concentration on school-lunch eligible, low-income kids,” according to Carroll.
For all students and their families, “community is really the right word to use in a Catholic sense” to describe the aim, “because we aren’t just educating children, we’re creating a community of learners, we’re creating a community of believers,” Carroll says. “We’re trying to create a community among parents as well—both within and around the school and the parish, but also across the Archdiocese.”
“In the current moment, it’s easier to raise money for charter schools than it is to raise money for Catholic schools,” he later notes. “The reason is, to be Catholic today … requires a certain amount of bravery given what the modern culture looks like, and people in corporate America are generally not particularly brave in terms of controversy.”
“When I converted” 20 years ago, Carroll continues, “most of the major propositions of the Catholic Church were not particularly controversial—God created men and women, for example. … As the culture has changed, particularly on social issues, … there are certain companies and certain individuals that have kind of pulled back.
”The people here are extremely generous, but there are specific companies that no longer will give money directly to the Catholic Church, and part of the reason so many people give money to the scholarship fund is its independent of the Catholic Church.”
In the conversation’s second part, Carroll talks more about Catholic education, the importance of remaining faithful to its core mission of eternal salvation, and the educational and societal benefits of school choice.