In the fall of 2007, word quietly spread through the nation's capital that a dozen Catholic schools run by the Archdiocese of Washington were in dire financial straits. These were not just any schools: The specter of closure had haunted these 12 before, when financial problems had surfaced a decade earlier. At that time, the archbishop of Washington, James Cardinal Hickey, had refused to allow the shuttering of any more schools serving the poorest families in his archdiocese. His solution was to create a unique arrangement whereby these schools would pool resources in order to stay afloat. Known as the Center City Consortium, the school grouping had appeared for several years to be a success; test scores were up, and millions of dollars had been raised.