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Catholic Church to close or merge a dozen schools in Chicago amid attendance drop

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The Catholic Church will close or merge a dozen of its 240 Chicago-area schools due to falling attendance in some areas of the country’s largest parochial school system, the Archdiocese of Chicago said on Wednesday.

“We will not be able to maintain all schools in their current form,” outgoing Cardinal Francis George said in a letter posted on the website of the archdiocese, which has a deficit of millions of dollars.

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Six schools would close in June 2015 while another six would merge into three, affecting 1,280 elementary school students, it said.

The archdiocese ran nearly 500 schools in the 1970s.

“Even though our costs are still significantly lower than those of the public school system, expenses have risen significantly over the past decades and the cost of a Catholic education is now beyond what many families can afford,” the letter said.

The archdiocese’s school budget was $337 million in the financial year ended June 2013, with expenses slightly exceeding revenues from tuition and fees, according to a public financial report.

The schools that will be shut down or merged have average enrollment of only 145, below the required minimum of 225, wrote George, who is suffering from kidney cancer and will retire in November and be replaced by Archbishop Blase Cupich.

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Parochial schools, which are cheaper than other private schools, have long been an option for Chicago families looking for schools that perform better than their local public school. But families with household incomes of $40,000 or less can no longer pay the average $4,500 per student tuition at area Catholic schools, George noted.

He said the Archdiocese had launched a campaign to raise a $150 million endowment fund for scholarships to help families pay for schooling and guarantee the viability of Chicago’s Catholic schools.

Across the United States there are 6,685 Catholic schools and average tuition is $3,673 for elementary parish schools and $9,622 for freshman tuition at a high school. Around the country, 82,000 children attend Catholic elementary and high schools, and 148 schools closed or consolidated last year while 28 new schools opened, according to the website of the National Catholic Educational Association.

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The Chicago archdiocese covers an area larger than Chicago city proper, where dozens of public schools have been shut in recent years due to a declining population and tight budgets.

(Reporting by Fiona Ortiz; Editing by Eric Walsh)

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Matt Gaetz forgot which network he was on: Surprised CNN anchor said ‘I’ve never been called Sean Hannity’

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Rep. Matt Gaetz seemed to confuse cable news networks during a Thursday appearance

Gaetz was interviewed by CNN's Chris Cuomo, who aggressively challenged Gaetz on the facts as the Florida Republican attempted to defend President Donald Trump.

Despite the fact Cuomo's interview was nothing like the puff segments Gaetz is used to on Fox, the congressman seemed confused by the end.

"Congressman, you are always welcome, wherever I am, at nine or eleven, whenever," Cuomo said.

"Thanks Sean," Gaetz replied.

"Did you just call me Sean?" Cuomo asked. "Did you just call me Sean?"

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California lawmaker who chaired Republican Assembly caucus leaving GOP — to become an independent: report

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On Thursday, the Sacramento Bee reported that California Assemblyman Chad Mayes, the former Assembly Minority Leader, is leaving the Republican Party and registering as No Party Preference.

"Instead of focusing on solutions for the big problems that we've got, we focused on winning elections," said Mayes in his announcement. "For me, I'm at the point in my life where I'm done with gamesmanship."

Mayes, a controversial figure who was implicated in an affair with a fellow public official, represents Yucca Valley. He is the second Republican Assemblyman this year to leave the party, after Brian Maienschein of San Diego, who Maienschein of San Diego.

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‘Quantum physics generator’ incident in Ohio results in evacuation — hazmat found no radiation

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Authorities in Columbus, Ohio evacuated dozens of homes after a man called 911 to report being burned by a

"Firefighters say nothing threatening was found in a northwest Columbus garage," WCMH-TV reported. "According to firefighters, a man called and reported that he received ‘RF burns’ while building some sort of ‘quantum physics generator’ in a garage. The man used words like ‘particle accelerator,’ ‘alpha rays,’ and ‘radiation’ while describing how he was burned."

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