Thursday, July 14, 2011

"Whatever it takes...to keep my kids in Christian school"

"Do not put your trust in princes, in human beings, who cannot save."  Psalm 143:6

God sometimes speaks to us by allowing us to observe the way other people handle circumstances or events in their lives.  The circumstances are similar, and God allows us to see the faith of three or four people handle them in a manner that we can conclude is pleasing to him, because we know what his word says about it. 

During the course of our re-enrollment, and our registration of new students, I have encountered several families whose commitment to Christian education is inspiring to observe.  While there are many families involved in private Christian schools for whom financing the cost of the education does not affect their bottom line, I've been in this business long enough to know that it is a major consideration for many others.  I certainly believe that God provides for his children and their needs, but I have been in Christian school education long enough to know the realities of paying the bills means that many families make a lot of personal sacrifices to keep their children in Christian school, and PCS is no different in that regard. 

In recent years, several studies have shown that, depending on the cost of tuition and fees, a Christian school education is financially out of reach for anywhere between 50% and 80% of the families in a typical, middle class, evangelical church.  In spite of those figures, many families simply put their dependence on God to provide something they know will require sacrifice.  Repeatedly, over the course of the past weeks since school has been out, I have observed families commit their need to the Lord, and depend on him to provide.  I can't even tell you how many parents I've heard say that they are willing to do whatever it takes to keep their kids at Portersville Christian School. 

This system works because there is sacrifice at both ends.  While school families may be "eating grass", as a parent of a former student of mine used to say, to keep their kids in Christian school, the school employees and staff are also making sacrifices to keep the cost of attending school as low as possible.  The salaries and benefits we pay to our teachers and staff are most definitely sacrificial in nature, earning less than half of what their colleagues in the public school system make.  Our buildings are plain, not fancy, but functional in terms of keeping the rain and snow out, warm in winter, and somehow our maintenance man manages to work miracles with a few tools and a paint brush on a shoestring budget.  An army of volunteers provide services that keep costs low.  We're good stewards of what we have and with help from God, the system works. 

Within our school community, and in the Christian community at large, there are people who have been blessed with a lot of material wealth who quietly carry out their Biblical obligation, "...to whom much has been given, much is required."  Many of our families are able to keep their children at PCS because the EITC program, and Pennsylvania Foundation, allow tax deductible contributions to be made to provide financial aid to qualified families.  The percentage of families at PCS who are able to keep their children here because of this blessing is somewhat higher than the estimated 35% of families in private Christian schools who benefit from this statewide. 

And so now, I'm going to drop the other shoe.

All of our families, in addition to bearing the expense of the education of their children at PCS, are subsidizing the public education system with their tax dollars.  The discussion of whether or not this system is fair and equitable has resulted in proposals across the country in several states to come up with a voucher system allowing parents who choose to put their children in an educational alternative to the public school monopoly to use their tax money to pay for it.  Without going into a long explanation, it has been demonstrated that a voucher program would not violate church-state separation, nor would it cost the state more money.  Several states have approved modified voucher programs, and they've had a measure of success in seeing educational progress improve. 

In Pennsylvania, not only did the legislature fail to follow through with a voucher program promised by many politicians at the time of the last election, but it also failed to follow through with a promised expansion of the EITC program, by simply allowing the amount covered by tax deductions to be increased.  I believe this occurred because those of us involved in Christian school education did not hold our elected officials accountable for their actions.  I've been involved in voucher lobbying efforts before, in another state, with similar results, and so I had my doubts this time around..  However, I did do more this time than I have ever done before, including spending a day in Harrisburg visiting with several state senators in their offices.  But I don't think they heard from enough people to push them forward.  The opposition was loud and fierce. 

We are hearing that the effort to get a voucher bill passed will be renewed in the fall.  We are also hearing that, in those states where vouchers have passed recently, considerable effort had to be made from the Christian schooling community to convince legislators that failure to deliver might end in an unfavorable result for them at the ballot box the next time they were up for re-election.  That may put you out of your comfort zone.  But considering the result, it may well be one of those "whatever it takes" efforts.

If you would like more information on the voucher proposal, and what is involved, you can visit http://acsipa.org/ or http://pacape.org/.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Help Needed!

The Development Committee is sponsoring a booth during the upcoming Horse Trading Days celebration in Zelienople.  There are some times when volunteers are needed just to man the booth, which will be a relatively simple task, mainly passing out candy, balloons, and information about PCS.  Even if you can give an hour, that would be great.  You can get in touch with Chris Woods or call the school office in the morning and they will get word to him.  The festival starts Thursday and runs through the weekend. 

JoAnn and I are back in Pennsylvania after a ten-day mission trip to Missouri, which was a great experience.  The travelling staff that helped us at the mission project is working in New York this week, at a World Changers project in Buffalo, and we're going up there to worship with them on Tuesday evening, and to enjoy a visit with my stepmom.  We have pictures, video and lots of great stories to share about lives that were changed, along with our having a close call with a tornado. 

Later this week, I want to share some things about our school and school community that have come from people who have found their way through our doors this summer, looking for a place to bring their children to school.  It will sure make you feel good about being part of this ministry, at this place and this time. 

Call if you can help at the Horse Trading Days!