Friday, August 12, 2011

Christian Education's Future in Pennsylvania

The link above will take you to the PA school choice website which references REACH, the E.I.T.C. (Educational Improvement Tax Credit) program for private schools.  EITC allows corporate contributors to receive a tax deduction credit of 75% for contributions of up to $300,000 made to the scholarship and financial aid programs of private schools.  The tax credit increases to 90% for those businesses who make a commitment for a two-year contribution. 

The EITC program is the best way private, Christian schools in Pennsylvania currently have to assist families who want to enroll their children in an alternative to the public education system.  Though many Christian families would like to send their children to a school that supports and teaches the values they are trying to instill at home, most cannot afford to do so, because their income will not allow them to pay the additional tuition and fees required to enroll, while they are still paying taxes to support the public education system at the same time.  Some surveys show that as many as 80% of families who are active in their local church would be unable to provide the tuition and fees necessary to send two children to a private, Christian school with an average tuition of just $6,000 per year. 

What that means is that a lot of families in our churches are trapped into an undesireable situation regarding the education of their children.  The Exodus Mandate, a group of Christian parents and educators who are committed to pointing out the detrimental effects of secular, public education on the future generations of the church, have discovered that up to 88% of young adults who were active in their churches during their childhood and teenage years leave the church altogether between ages 22 and 30.  While nearly half of all adult Americans today are affiliated with, or are members of a church, by 2020, only 6% of adults under 35 years of age will be considered "churched," that is, able to identify a specific congregation to which they belong.  The Exodus Mandate believes that the content and atmosphere of the public education system is largely responsible for this erosion of belief and values. 

The good news is that God has raised up Christian businessmen and women who are willing to provide financial assistance to families who want to send their children to Christian schools where they will be taught the precepts and moral values that are consistent with their faith.  "Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more."  (Luke 12:48, ESV)  The EITC program in Pennsylvania makes it possible for us to work toward levelling the playing field when it comes to financing a Christian school education for your children.

So at this point, I hope you are asking, "What can I do?" 

First of all, if you own a business, and you are in a financial position to make a contribution, this is an excellent way to get a tax deduction.  A direct contribution to the school certainly helps, but a designated contribution to the EITC program will mean that the money will come back to the school, but it will also be applied to the tuition of a student from a qualified family.  You would be investing in both the school, and the future of one or more of its students. 

If you don't own a business, why not contact your employer and ask if they are interested in making a contribution through EITC designated to PCS?  Many employers are looking for ways to contribute to causes that are advanced by their employees, and a tax deduction sweetens the pot just a bit.  It might also be a nice way to find out how much your contribution at work is appreciated. 

You may also be aware of individuals in your church or community who might be supportive of Christian education, and appreciate being asked to participate in an opportunity like EITC.  Awareness is sometimes all it takes for someone to see an opportunity to be a blessing.  There are a lot of Christians in the business world who have a very clear and mature understanding of the gifts they have been given, and they have a sense of calling when it comes to financial support of various Christian ministries, including Christian education.  You may be the voice that God will use to point them in the direction they need to go.

It now appears that EITC may represent the best opportunity Christian schools in Pennsylvania will have to open the doors of Christian education to the full constituency of families who want what their children learn at school to be compatible with what they learn at church.  And it appears that the only limits on the potential of this program are those we put on it ourselves by not taking advantage of every opportunity we have.  Almost 20% of our school's budget will be provided through the financial aid to families given through EITC and Pennsylvania Foundation, all of which is applied to tuition and fees of students from families who qualified, many of whom would not be able to have the choice of a private Christian school if this funding were not available.  Every additional dollar represents the possibility of providing Christian school education to more people.