Big Shoulders Fund works to keep schools open, increase access

Mar 06, 2013, 11:30 ET from Big Shoulders Fund

CHICAGO, March 6, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Big Shoulders Fund is committed to ensuring that the inner-city Catholic schools remain a viable option and that Chicago does not mirror other urban areas and systems with significant school closures.  The Archdiocese of Chicago recently announced substantial funding reductions and the closure of five Catholic schools, three of them Big Shoulder Fund schools.  Even as other cities announce closing as many as 40 Catholic schools, Big Shoulders Fund regrets the loss of these three schools following a six year stretch with only two closings. 

Big Shoulders has been working towards an agreement with the Archdiocese of Chicago aimed at preventing additional school closures while significantly increasing Big Shoulders Fund's support directed at providing access for hundreds of new students especially in the most underserved communities in Chicago. "Big Shoulders remains hopeful that the agreement will be finalized soon to allow us to provide additional details, but in the interim we'd like to reassure families, supporters and schools of our unwavering commitment to providing access to a high-quality education for all children," said James O'Connor, co-chairman of the Big Shoulders Fund.

In contrast to what is happening to inner-city Catholic schools nationally, enrollment has grown in our schools for three consecutive years through concerted efforts focused on marketing and need-based scholarships, while fundraising has increased each year. This growth is evidence of increasing interest in the success of our schools and students.

Under the leadership of Co-chairmen James O'Connor, John Canning, and Monsignor Kenneth Velo, Big Shoulders Fund currently provides $12 to $14 million in annual support for 93 inner-city Catholic schools educating nearly 24,000 children in Chicago. This support includes renewable and emergency scholarships coupled with strategic investments in marketing and development, in academic programs and resources, and in enrichment programs for students. This year, Big Shoulders Fund will provide $6 million in scholarships to over 5,000 children in preschool through twelfth grade.

Big Shoulders Fund will take a leadership role to help several key schools become increasingly viable now and in the future, in collaboration with the Archdiocese.  This will include additional investments in capacity building aimed at increasing enrollment, improving operational efficiency, and building even stronger academic programs. These investments of financial, human and strategic resources in schools serving the neediest communities will be in addition to current support provided by Big Shoulders.

"Given the increasing interest in Big Shoulders Fund schools, we are preparing scholarship programs that will invite hundreds of new students into our schools.  This will not only help address short-term financial pressures, but will also be significant in improving the schools' long-term viability," said Big Shoulders Fund President and CEO Joshua Hale.

In the case of the three Big Shoulders Fund schools that have been announced to close, Big Shoulders Fund investments such as technology or other resources will be transferred to another Big Shoulders Fund school, and scholarship students will have the opportunity to take their scholarships to another Big Shoulders school. 

About Big Shoulders Fund

Big Shoulders Fund was founded in 1986 by business leaders, inspired by Joseph Cardinal Bernardin, to provide assistance for the inner-city Catholic schools in Chicago. To date, the Big Shoulders Fund has raised over $240 million, which has been used to help defray tuition and operating costs at 93 inner-city elementary and secondary schools, and to assist with capital and other program enhancements at these schools. These schools educate nearly 24,000 children of whom 80% are minority, 61% living in poverty, and 32% are not Catholic. Fully 85% of students that graduate with Big Shoulders renewable scholarships enroll in college the following year of whom 86% enrolled at four-year universities, which is considerably higher than city, state, and national averages.

Big Shoulders has earned a four star rating from Charity Navigator for six years in a row measuring efficiency, transparency and accountability.   This is particularly significant because just three percent of charities have received at least six consecutive Four Star Ratings. The Fund is an independent 501(c) (3) non-profit entity that receives and distributes privately raised contributions.  For more information, visit or call 312-751-8337.

Rebecca Lindsay-Ryan

SOURCE Big Shoulders Fund