Giving Compass' Take:

• Catholic education and particularly nuns helped to advance women, immigrants, and other communities on the fringes of society. 

In the midst of changing education policies and funding shortfalls, do you think Catholic schools are a viable option instead? Can we learn to implement some of the same lessons of female empowerment in the fabric of our own schools?

• Even though Catholic schools may be instilling quality values, they are slowly on the decline in urban areas.

March is National Women’s History Month. In recognition, The 74 is sharing stories of remarkable women who transformed U.S. education.

A self-described young, stuttering child, Joe Biden credits a group of women for building his confidence and giving him 12 years of education that would lead him to become vice president of the United States. “You have no idea of the impact that you have on others,” Biden told a group of Catholic nuns on a social justice tour of the United States in 2014.

Catholic schooling in the U.S. dates back as far as the early 1600s, as priests and nuns arrived in the colonies and established schools, orphanages, and hospitals. John Carroll — elected the first U.S. bishop in 1789 — pushed for religious schools to educate American Catholic children living in a predominantly Protestant country. As priests and brothers began creating schools for boys, it was left to the nuns to teach girls.

Catholic schools were also invaluable in alleviating overcrowded public schools as populations surged in major cities, and giving immigrants a boost up the economic ladder, said Ann Marie Ryan, associate professor of education at Loyola University Chicago.

“Without the nuns, you could not have had the parochial school system that this country has had,” said Maggie McGuinness, professor of religion at La Salle University.

At a time when women were barred from many universities, nuns became their advocates. Catholic sisters established 150 religious colleges for women in the United States, starting in the late 1800s.

Catholic schools today have been experimenting with different business models to survive, from the Cristo Rey schools that utilize student work study to help pay for tuition to Philadelphia Catholic schools that have been using tax-credit scholarships and voucher programs to pay tuition for poor families.

Read the full article about Catholic schools' impact on education by Kate Stringer at The 74.