Monday, December 3, 2012

Chasing the Son...Right Into the Public Domain

"And I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man also will acknowledge before the angels of God, but the one who denies me before men will be denied before the angels of God."  Luke 12:8-9, ESV

The Christian presence in the public arena is slowly disappearing.  Last year, an atheist group from Wisconsin succeeded in forcing Ellwood City to either take down a creche displayed at the city hall, or put up displays of other religions, including a banner proclaiming their atheist view.  The Ellwood City display was one of the last remaining such displays on public property in the country.  The public schools have "winter break" and "fall break" now, instead of Christmas or Thanksgiving vacation.  Consumerism has intruded into Thanksgiving, bringing an early end to the thanks in order to get some extra shopping time. 

So when I received a packet from Trib media, advertising a lip dub video contest, I thought it might be a good idea for our student council to tackle.  I figured they could pick a good, Christian song with a solid message that fits our purpose of glorifying God, let the students have some fun, and some practical experience scripting and choreographing a video to fit the lyrics, and enter the contest with something that was consistent with our "distinctively Christian" atmosphere and purpose, and which testified to our faith in Jesus. 

But after looking at the contest rules, the plans had to change.  Because we would be producing and downloading a video, for copyright license purposes, we had to choose from a pre-selected list of songs, all of which were secular in nature.  That created some complications.  Within the Christian community, whenever you do something like this, there is always someone who is willing to point out what is wrong with it, and why it is not consistent with your purpose, mainly because it is not consistent with their purpose.  Music style, and any kind of creative or media expression, are equally sensitive topics in Christian circles as are politics and basic doctrine.  Down the road, many of our students are going to experience that sort of thing if they take any leadership role in the church at all.  And so it raised the question of whether we want to expose them to that sort of thing now. 

That's nothing more than fear.  But so many, many times, when there is an opportunity to share a message about our faith, however brief, and by whatever means, we are paralyzed by fear, and we don't do it.  And then, on the other side of the fear equation is the thought that we may be intruding, and overdoing it, and getting too "religious" or too "preachy" by taking a secular song, re-interpreting it with a Christian message and going out into public with it.  That's also a form of paralyzing fear. 

But the faculty student council sponsor is a teacher who clearly understands the mission and purpose of our school, and some of the students involved understand it too.  And in the course of working out what they were going to do, they developed and scripted a plan for the video that put a clear, simple message about our faith resting in "the Son," and about our pursuit of him.  So the one question that had to be asked, and answered, was, "Will this video show that the mission and purpose of our school is to glorify God, and lift up Jesus?"  And in a very simple, straighforward way, it does. 

The length of the song leaves a little over three minutes to get the message across.  Can the gospel be preached in three minutes?  I think that was definitely enough time for our students to accomplish their mission, make it clear that Jesus is the way we follow, and glorify God.  I'm an adult born well before the video generation came along, and so I'm not really good at picking things up in video set to music, and I had to watch it several times to "get it."  But there are fifteen schools in this contest, fourteen public and one Christian, and I would guess that most everyone involved in making the video for their school watched everyone elses, including ours, at least once.  Since we got some comments about making our video to "fit" our school, I can conclude that some people got the message. 

I'm sure there were some who rolled their eyes, some who thought that we should keep our Christian faith on our campus and inside our churches, and some who ridiculed what we did.  And there were probably some who thought that putting our Christian message into it was a tactic to get sympathetic votes.  But from some of the comments that were left, there were definitely people who not only got it, but were appreciative of the fact that it was there.  One pointed out that what the students did with the lyrics, and the way they arranged the video, fit our school very well.  Then there was this comment:

"You make chasing the Son look like so much fun." 

I hope a whole lot of people, especially among those high school students from the other schools who most certainly watched the video, got at least that much out of it.

You can still vote for it through December 6 at midnight.  Here's the URL:

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Growing Disciples and Changing Lives

For nearly fifty years, Portersville Christian School has provided a ministry of discipleship to the children of families looking for a comprehensive, distinctively Christian education environment.  We are a school that recognizes its calling and role as a Christian discipleship ministry, training and developing children and young people to recognize their calling as servants of Jesus Christ through his church.  Students come to us from families who live in a radius of the school in Butler, Lawrence, Beaver, Mercer and Allegheny counties and receive a high quality education in a distinctively Christian environment with a well balanced program of student activities available in fine arts and athletics. 

We are the only fully accredited Christian school offering a comprehensive, distinctively Christian education to students in grades PK through 12 in the three county area of Butler, Lawrence and Mercer, and we are very glad to partner with other Christian schools who serve different grade levels in the local community.  Students who come to school here are involved in more than just an educational experience.  We disciple followers of Christ in preparation for kingdom service, whether they are called to vocational ministry, missions, or to be a Christian businessman or woman. 

You don't have to compromise academic quality in Christian education.  PCS students are at the top when it comes to SAT scores at both the state and national level, and the school's senior classes regularly produce National Merit semi-finalists and finalists.  Our elementary students score in the top quartile on nationally measured achievement tests in math and reading.  And our balanced program of fine arts and athletics rounds out the school experience here.

We run our own bus system, so if you live in Cranberry Township or New Wilmington, Butler or New Castle, getting here is no problem for your students.  We want to build relationships with the churches in each of these communities, and others, and partner in a ministry which helps turn believers in Christ into disciples who understand their calling to service in his church, and have both the desire and the training to fulfill it. In a time when younger people are leaving the church at a high rate around the time they graduate from college, PCS students remember what they've learned, and most of them want to put it to use serving Christ's church. 

If you want a taste of campus life at PCS, come to the play performance this week.  Thursday, Friday and Saturday, November 15, 16 and 17, on campus at 7:00 p.m. our students will perform "The Pink Panther Strikes Again." 

We want the church to work with us, walk with us, support us, and help us grow disciples into the mature young servants of the church Jesus wants them to be.  Together, we can make a difference in our world here in Western Pennsylvania, as well as across the globe.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

So, I Heard There was an Election the Other Day...

"Do not put your trust in Princes, in human beings, who cannot save," says Psalm 146:3.  "This is what the LORD says:  Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends on the flesh for his strength, and whose heart turns away from the LORD."  Jeremiah 17:5

There was another post here Wednesday, but after reading through it, I didn't like it and I took it down.  In chapel on Wednesday, knowing that most of our students were disappointed, as were many of their parents, I had the opportunity to share a message of encouragement with them.  God is in control.  The scripture teaches us that, and we can trust what they have to say.  This generation is the hope of the future, and I also wanted to encourage them not to allow their disappointment to lead them to do something that would damage their testimony.  We concluded by doing something that the scripture tells us to do, we prayed for our President, our Congress, our state government, our local leaders, all of the people who are in authority over us.  We prayed for our country and for its military, and we prayed for God to help us, as his children, grow in our faith. 

We are going through the process of re-accreditation, and one of the self-study committees has dealt with a question about measuring the effectiveness of the mission and purpose of PCS by analyzing the experiences of its graduates.  While we don't have a comprehensive survey with data related to the outcome and effect of a PCS education on those who graduate from here, we do have some evidence that this school has been extremely effective in providing an excellent academic foundation, and an excellent spiritual foundation.  I am constantly being given news articles, facebook posts, notes and other information about graduates of this school who are having a positive impact in the college they attend, or the company they work for, and especially in vocational ministry and missions in their churches.  I believe that our students and alumni are a shining hope for Christ's church in Western Pennsylvania and beyond, wherever they are serving. 

It would be nice if there were more of them.  Our nation needs leaders who have the academic knowledge and the moral fiber to win elections and provide strong leadership.  The public education system has been systematically influencing generations of American students in a secular philosophy of humanism, which has caused a decline not only in moral values and character, but in academic performance as well.  It's been going on for several generations, which is why we should not be surprised that voters in some places went to the polls on Tuesday, legalized marijuana and approved same-sex marriage in several states.  That is only going to increase, since 90% of high school graduates in the US receive their diplomas from a public school. 

The struggle faced by Portersville Christian School, and most other Christian schools, is that our resources limit the size of our school.  In several surveys, Christian school organizations point out that only 12% to 18% of the families who consider themselves active in their local, conservative, Evangelical church can afford to choose a Christian school for their child.  And much of the rest of the Christian community doesn't seem willing to provide much in the way of help.  American Christians will spend over a billion dollars this year on buildings to house worship services and church activities--buildings that will stand empty for all but a few hours each week, but parents of students in Christian schools will be asked to come up with 90% of the tuition and fees needed to provide a Christian education for their children.  If we had just a fraction of the money Christians gave to political action committees to influence the outcome of the election, it would go a whole lot further in influencing the outcomes.

We have started an annual fund here at PCS to meet some of our pressing financial needs.  The top priority is to fill in the gap for families who need assistance to make the choice to send their children to a school that is distinctively Christian, and oriented toward Christian discipleship.  There are other priorities, including our physical plant, and our technology capabilities.  So if you weren't particularly pleased with the way things turned out on Tuesday, you have a way to invest in something that will go a long way toward making genuine change.  You can get your checkbook out, write a check to Portersville Christian School, maybe one, maybe one each month, and put "annual fund" in the "for" line.  Perhaps, one day, one of the students you helped put through school will become the President of the United States. 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

News From Here and There

Grandparents and Special Friends Day, November 19
All grandparents of PCS students are invited to campus on the morning of November 19 to visit the school, go to class with their grandchildren, and participate in a worship service together.  Some grandparents may live farther away, and might not be able to come, so those students are welcome to bring a special adult friend, perhaps someone from their church, or a neighbor, who can substitute for grandparents that day.  Invitations have already been sent.

First Nine Weeks Grades Go Out October 31
This Friday, October 26, is the end of the first nine weeks.  How time flies when you're having such fun!  Grades will be distributed October 31, however, if you want a sneak peek, you can always go to Edline and take a look. Grades will be posted Monday, October 29.

Over the Head Achievement for Soccer, Volleyball Teams
We are very proud of our varsity soccer and volleyball teams this year.  After winning nine league games, the volleyball team found itself in a logjam tie for the last remaining playoff spot from the Western Division of SWCAC.  They missed the tie-breaker by just one set, and played in Division 2.  That was an excellent performance for a team with no starters returning from last season, and only two experienced players from last season.  We have high expectations for next season.

The soccer team, 9-6 overall, 9-3 in SWCAC play, defeated West Pennsylvania School for the Deaf and Jefferson County Christian on their way to the soccer finals where they lost to Evangel Heights in a hard fought game at Geneva College.  They will be playing this week in the NCSAA tournament at Geneva, with one game on our campus on Friday at 4:30.  We also look forward to next season, since there are no seniors on the soccer team this year.

The Junior High Soccer team is playing for a GPCAL championship this week, with soccer games on our campus.  They will be contending for the league championship, after finishing in a tie with Trinity Christian.  They have also exceeded expectations, and have had an excellent season, finishing with a 10-2 overall record.

Accreditation Self Study Moves Forward
Three self-study committees have completed, or are nearing completion of their work for our ACSI accreditation renewal process.  The committees are mainly composed of faculty members and board members, with a few parents.  They focus on specific areas of the school program, measuring the school's compliance with the written standards.

Accreditation is extremely important for private, Christian schools.  What it says to parents is that we have an organized system of operating, standards are in place to guarantee the quality of the education and services we provide, and students who attend our school are well prepared for college when they graduate from here.  There are also standards which guarantee that the education provided by Portersville Christian School is distinctively Christian, and true to the guiding principles of scripture which are at the core of our ministry as a school.  At the present time, Portersville Christian School is the only fully-accredited, private, Christian school offering education in grades PK-12 in Butler, Mercer or Lawrence County.

SAT Scores Released
Though PCS has only eight senior class members this year, the group is following in the footsteps of previous graduating classes in high academic achievement.  PCS students scored an average of 1579 on their recent SAT, which places them among the highest achievers in the region, and in particular, among their fellow high school students in Butler County. That is 107 points over the Pennsylvania average, and 81 points over the national average.  Though we did not have any national merit semi-finalists in this group, several students came very close to qualifying.  We look forward to continued improvement for those students who will take the test again.

Fall Drama, "The Return of the Pink Panther" November 15-17
If you're looking forward to a great performance by our fine arts department, it is coming November 15-17.  "The Return of the Pink Panther" will be performed on three nights in the PCS Gym/Theater.  Stage setup is beginning this weekend.  As usual, this is shaping up to be another excellent performance.

Tour of College Athletics
Three recent PCS graduates are on their respective college athletic teams.  Justin Santoro, class of 2010, is a sophomore at Cedarville University in Ohio, and plays on the soccer team.  Katie Coomber, class of 2010, is a sophomore at Lancaster Bible College in Pennsylvania, and plays both volleyball and basketball.  Mary McDonald, class of 2011, is a freshman at Grove City College in Pennsylvania, and will be playing on the womens' basketball team this fall.  The head administrator makes an effort each year to attend at least one of their games.  The accreditation and annual fund drive are making that tough this year, but hopefully, it will happen.

By the way, check out this picture from the front page of the Cedarville University soccer site:

Thursday, October 11, 2012

On Being Blessed

We are blessed.

We talk about blessings in our Christian culture, and connect them to just about everything we do.  The word fits into our conversation in a relatively easy way.  Someone asks, "How are you?" and you respond, "I'm blessed."  I like the way that a trend has worked its way into the common statement, "Have a nice day," turning it into "Have a blessed day."  As Americans, because of the cultural context in which we live, the term is most frequently measured by, and associated with, money.  We have lots of it, as a nation, because we are blessed.  Or so the reasoning goes.

When I read about blessings in the Bible, they have much more to do with what God does than with what we do.  A blessing, literally, is a touch from God, a visitation from the Holy One.  It is defined as the favor of God being bestowed on someone, an infusion of holiness.  Perhaps the most vivid description of a blessing occurs when God passes by Moses on Mt. Sinai, and reveals a little bit of his glory to him.  Moses is never the same after that, and his concept of God is greatly expanded. 

It seems that the one condition required for receiving a blessing is willingness.  You have to be willing to receive it, and you have to be willing to share it.  It doesn't seem that there is a pathway to earning blessings, nor is there a bank in which you can keep, and accumulate them after you receive them.  I'm old enough to remember the old hymn, "Make Me a Channel of Blessing Today" and understand what that means.  Receiving and giving are both parts of the experience, and without either one it isn't a blessing. 

There are many ways to receive a touch from God, and pass it along.  Think about how many times that happened today, and be happy that you were used as a channel of blessing.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

What's New at Portersville Christian School

We're into our third week of the school year at Portersville Christian School, and it has been a good one so far. We want to share some news about some exciting things which will be happening during the course of this year so that you can have an idea of where we are and what is going on.

Theme Scripture for 2012-13
"Love one another with brotherly affection.  Outdo one another in showing honor."  Romans 12:10, ESV

Actually, we are focusing on that whole passage, from verse 9 through 13 in emphasizing the dynamics of being a Christian community as we come together as a school community.  We want to teach our students that genuine love is a sign of sincere faith in Jesus.  "This is how we know what love is," says the Apostle John.  "Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.  And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers."  

New Students
Last spring, we said congratulations, and goodbye, to 26 seniors.  This fall, we welcomed 42 brand new faces to PCS.  From Pre-Kindergarten all the way to the senior class, new students came from Cranberry Township, Butler, Slippery Rock, Ellwood City, Riverside, Laurel, New Castle, Grove City, Zelienople-Harmony, Evans City, Grove City and everywhere in between.  In September, we welcomed a foreign exchange student, Jemima, from Brugg, Switzerland.

New Teachers
Three new faculty members joined our staff this year.  Mrs. Kristin Charles teaches fourth grade, Mr. Ryan Wise teaches Bible 8,9 and 11, and 7th Social Studies, and Pastor Bob Frye teaches 7th Bible.

New Worship Team
One of the members of our senior class, Tara Tyson, has volunteered to lead the worship team for chapel services.  She is currently enlisting other students to help with playing instruments or with the praise team.  We've already had several great worship experiences in both high school and elementary school chapel.  If you know a pastor, youth pastor or other church leader who would enjoy the opportunity to share a message from scripture and the spirit with our students, please call the office and let us know.

PCS is going through the process of self-study to prepare for a re-accreditation visit from ACSI, the Association of Christian Schools International.  We are accredited by both ACSI and the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools.  Accreditation is very important to our students, especially when they are considering attending a college or university.  Contrary to what some people believe, accreditation does not involve the state telling us what to do.  Rather, it involves our school setting standards and goals related to our mission and purpose as a school, and having those goals and standards evaluated for their effectiveness by other Christian school leaders.  PCS is currently the only fully accredited, private, Christian school offering a comprehensive education in grades PK through 12 that serves Butler, Lawrence and Mercer counties.  Most of our 2012 graduates who stayed in Pennsylvania enrolled at Grove City College and Geneva College, while a number of students went out of state to Liberty University in Virginia.  However, all of our graduates were admitted to their first choice, including several students in special pre-med, nursing or pharmacy programs at Pitt and Carlow University. 

Expanded College in High School Program
PCS now offers five dual credit courses for a total of 15 semester hours of credit at the college level.  In addition to English 101, Communication Skills, Psychology and Sociology, we also offer English 102, allowing students to complete their basic college English requirement before graduating from high school.  Students can also take AP Calculus AB, and Statistics and Probability through the Advanced Placement program, and by earning a 4 or 5 on the exam, receive an additional six hours of math credit.  This means that students can graduate from high school here at Portersville Christian, and transfer 21 hours of college credit upon admission.  That is the better part of the freshman year, and in addition to the credit, and the GPA, represents a substantial financial savings.  They also count toward high school graduation, and of course, are taught in the Christian environment of the school, under the banner of our Christian philosophy of education.

Home School students can earn both high school and college credit through our College-in-High School and AP programs as well.  The schedule is arranged so that these courses are taught back-to-back in a block.  Home school students enrolled in either program are eligible for athletic and fine arts activities at PCS.

Academic Achievements
Our SAT scores can't be released until September 24.  However, I can tell you that our students, once again, performed with an excellence that reflects the quality of the academic program at Portersville Christian School.  One of our 2012 graduates was named as one of the two National Merit Scholar finalists in Butler County.  Though our current senior class only numbers 8 students, six of them achieved scores which were in the top quartile nationally.  And, as has been the normal pattern for almost a decade, our average scores were significantly greater than the local, state and national averages. 

Our elementary students took the Terra Nova achievement test last spring for the first time.  Though we did not have previous year's scores to compare, our students exceeded the national norms in all subject areas, and we were especially proud of their accomplishments in Language Arts, Reading and Math, where their overall average scores exceeded the "high average" range, averaging in the 80th percentile.  About a third of our students scored in the 90th percentile range. 

Annual Fund
We are in the process of launching our first "Warrior Legacy Fund."  We are raising money to provide financial aid to families who qualify to receive it, as a supplement to our EITC and Pennsylvania Family Foundation grants.  Many people don't realize that PCS provides extensive financial assistance to families in order to enable them to take advantage of the blessing of a distinctively Christian education which we offer.  We want to give people who have a connection with the school, whom God has blessed with resources and a heart for giving, an opportunity to invest in the lives of students who are training for "Kingdom Citizenship."  Our goal is to raise $100,000 during the school year, of which $70,000 will go to scholarships, and the remainder will go to upgrading our technology capabilities, including a do-over of the elementary computer lab.

Athletics and Fine Arts Activities
As of this writing, our varsity soccer and volleyball teams are off to a good start.  The soccer team finished third in the Slippery Rock Baptist tournament, and has an overall record of 4-2, 3-1 in conference.  The volleyball team got a fourth place finish at Slippery Rock, and is 4-1 overall, 3-1 in conference play.  Junior high soccer is also off to a good start.

The fine arts department is gearing up for a performance of "Return of the Pink Panther" this fall. 

Distinctively Christian, Academically Excellent, Financially Affordable
We desire to serve the churches and families of our area by partnering with parents to provide a superior, quality education in a distinctively Christian environment at a reasonable cost.  We believe that what students learn at school should be consistent with what they are taught at home, and what they learn at church.  We recognize the Bible as God's revealed word, infallible, and without error, and we strive to be sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit.  Please keep us and our ministry of preparing Kingdom citizens for their calling in your prayers. 


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Let's Talk About...Money

Well, next to politics and religion, why not?

As we approach the coming school year, many families face a difficult time when they receive their tuition contracts and their financial aid grants about whether they are going to be able to continue sending their children to PCS.  Many of our families are blessed, and don't really have to worry about that particular issue, but for some, it becomes a matter of careful calculation and weighing of priorities.  Needless to say, we believe that a quality education in a distinctively Christian environment should be high on the priority list, and for most of our families, we believe it is, which is why these decisions become even more agonizing and painful.  The fact of the matter is that the alternatives, namely the public education system, public charter schools, cyber education and home education, are not satisfactory options for most families.  Anything the government does in education is philosophically and educationally problematic, including cyber education.  Home schooling isn't a viable option for families with two working parents. 

The budget at our school is calculated down to a cat's whisker, and it is all very lean and efficient.  The end result is a per-student cost in tuition and fees that is lower than any other private, Christian school in the area that offers a fully accredited, quality education in a distinctively Christian environment from Pre-Kindergarten through twelfth grade.  The qualifiers for us are the PK-12 program, and accreditation, both of which are important.  At some other time, I'll discuss the value of full accreditation.  It is vitally important.  Academic quality here is also vitally important.  Our students have led this county in Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) scores for the better part of the last decade, and have produced a significant number of students eligible for National Merit Scholar honors.  So from a financial perspective, we are a gigantic educational bargain. 

The approximately $5,500 that is the tuition figure for a year of education is also subsidized in a number of ways.  About a third of our students attend school on financial aid, throuth EITC, Pennsylvania Family Foundation, or private contributions.  I have no doubt we hand out as much, if not more, financial aid than any other Christian school in the region.  Of course, transportation costs are subsidized by the school districts of residence.  We do receive some limited state aid for textbooks.  But there are several other ways your cost per student for attending here are made as low as possible:
  1. Our teacher salaries are significantly lower than those of their counterparts in the public education system.  Including the insurance benefit that we offer, average compensation for a teacher here is perhaps about half of what it is in the public schools, and is about 20% less than most other accredited Christian schools.  Given the level of academic achievement at PCS, and the atmosphere provided here (not perfect, but we're going to keep raising the bar!) that is a clear demonstration of commitment and sacrifice for the cause of Christian education. If we raised our teacher salary to the minimum salary level of the state pay scale, it would mean an increase of $2,200 in tuition.  So each teacher in the school is, in effect, handing each child a scholarship of that amount. It merits mutual sacrifice.  
  2. Obviously, our facility is not fancy or extravagant. But it is debt-free. We are committed to making some improvements in technology.  Otherwise, we have a roof over our heads, heat in the winter and we're proving that worn carpets, white boards and used desks and chairs are just fine for providing a quality education in a distinctively Christian environment.  What we lack in furnishings and equipment, we make up for in enthusiasm and quality of instruction. 
  3. Every family contributes a minimum of 10 hours of volunteer time per semester.  And actually, what makes that so efficient and effective, is that most families give far more time than that.  Not only that, but we have people who find other ways to help.  During the last year, we received a lot of computer equipment, including a number of laptops, because a parent observed that the company they worked for was going to upgrade.  We got a color copier from another parent for the same reason.  Office supplies, particularly paper, came in a continuous flow.  We were blessed in all kinds of ways, from straight up cash donations to services provided in-kind.  Thankfully, we have people in the school community who understand the Biblical principle that God blesses a generous and cheerful giver.
  4. There are several businesses who make our financial aid assistance work.  Through EITC, and Pennsylvania Family Foundation, 88 students are able to attend Portersville Christian School who would not be able to attend otherwise.  Considering our tuition rate, it would be difficult for them to attend any other Christian school.  That means that those families are able to exercise a choice about where their kids attend school, and they can have some peace of mind about the values and morals they are learning, and about the philosophical foundation from which they are being taught.  They know that if their kids come to school here, it doesn't solve every problem of life, but they will at least be taught things that support what their family, and their church, is also teaching them.  It is a mystery of God as to how he decides to bless the generosity of those who provide this funding, but from this side of the situation, it is most definitely seen as God's provision.  
We know that God plants a vision in the hearts of his people and directs them to support his work.  Are you in a position to be a generous, cheerful giver?  Do you have deep convictions about the work of Christian education in a school setting, and deep concerns about the direction which the public education system is moving?  Is God working to plant a vision for supporting Christian education through you?  There are families in our school who are agonizing and praying about their finances and their children's education.  If you can help, please let us know.  

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Battles We Fight...

Ephesians 6:12
For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. 

It probably seems odd that I chose to use this verse at the beginning of a blog post as we approach the beginning of a new school year.  But if you look at where these words are found, and the context in which they are written, it won't seem so strange.  Paul has just finished outlining an ordered Christian life.  He has spoken of relationships between believers bound together in love because of a common faith in Christ, and he gives a full picture of what that looks like, involving Christ and his church, husbands and wives, and children and their parents.  The paragraph in which this verse is located begins with encouragement for believers to be strong in the Lord.  It is followed by a passage that takes a suit of armor and uses it as an analogy for Christians as they fight spiritual battles, how to do it and what weapons to use.

It is pretty evident that a Christian school, where young people gather to be trained up in righteousness, is a spiritual battleground.  There was a time when I thought that the Bible's analogies of warfare in the spiritual realm were a little over the edge to make the point, but after thirty years in Christian education, I don't think that way any more.

The area in which we've been under attack the most has been in personal relationships.  For that very reason, the scripture theme for the upcoming school year is Romans 12:10, so that we can fight this battle with the sword that is the word of God.  We will ask our teachers and staff to use every opportunity, including those that they can create on their own, to teach our students how to love each other in Christ, and how to honor others above themselves.  This is also an area where the greater school community, including parents, can use some education as well.  We've fought a battle against gossip, selfishness and criticism that refuses to follow the principles of scripture in resolving difficulties between believers.  There were far too many occasions during the past year when information came to the administration via an indirect route, rather than by the way Christians are instructed in such matters in scripture.

We fight the battle of apathy and discouragement.  Our teachers and staff make big sacrifices in the area of time and money.  Did you know that they could be earning more than twice the salary and benefits in a public school?  But they are committed to providing students with a distinctively Christian education and environment.  When that is taken casually, either in the classroom by students who don't put forth their full effort, or out of it by families who exhibit a "take it or leave it" attitude, and don't seem to be committed to the school's mission and purpose, it is discouraging.  On the other hand, real encouragement comes by families who show their appreciation for the work being done on their behalf, continuously give pats on the back, and remain committed to helping build the school up. 

We fight the battle of financial difficulty.  The efficiency of how this school operates is amazing, and its stewardship of resources, both volunteer labor and money, is incredible.  We have a roof over our head, some relief in the summer, and heat in the winter.  We have a gymnasium and a soccer field.  Our classrooms are simple, the carpets are worn, but everything is paid for.  We produce the county's most academically achieved students, a sports program, fine arts, and a quality, distinctively education for well under half of what it costs for the public school system to provide for one student for a  year.  But things do run tight from time to time.  So we need to utilize the weapon of prayer and we need supporters of Christian education to open up their wallet and follow the example of those who exercise the spiritual gift of generosity. 

There is also a battle for the minds and hearts of our students going on every day.  The advantage they have is that their school, unlike most others, is supporting the values their parents are teaching at home and that their church is teaching them.  But they are bombarded by media messages telling them that all of this can't be right, and that if they are investing their lives in serving others in Jesus' name, they are wasting their time.  They are receiving the message that, in fact, every other philosophy of life is valid, except the Christian philosophy.  And that is very hard to fight.  The enemy works very hard to defeat our ability to counter his moves, and to cripple the school's ability to be used as a weapon.  His goal is to either render us ineffective, or keep us from operating.

The weapons are the same ones that have always been used in this battle.  Selfishness.  Greed.  Gossip and slander.  The methods have changed, with the instant information available on the internet, social networking and other technological advances in communication, but it is still the same old battle.  The most effective means of destruction is to try to get Christians to fight and turn on each other.  Younger people are very vulnerable to this.

Twice each week, I have had the privilege of a prayer time with a local pastor.  Every Wednesday and Friday morning, we pray for the school, for the churches represented, for the students, for our own families and friends.  It would be great if we had groups of students meeting together, praying for their school, for their families and for each other twice a week.  That would go a long way toward developing the kind of love for each other that Paul speaks of in Romans 12:10.  Prayer changes things.  As the school year approaches, let's change things with prayer.

Friday, July 27, 2012

It Won't Be Long Now...

We are one month away from the beginning of the 2012-13 school year at Portersville Christian School.  The summer is going by quickly.  In a week or so, soccer and volleyball players will be gathering for pre-season practice. 

On August 2, I will begin my third year as head administrator.  It doesn't seem like that much time has passed since I first walked through the door of the school in June of 2010 and realized that same night that this was the place God was calling us to serve.  I have learned a lot since then, more than I realized I would have to learn in order to do this, and enough to know that there is still a lot to learn.  Some goals have been met, others have either been changed, or are still in the process of being met.  This coming year, 2012-13, will involve a concentrated and much more directed effort at working toward reaching the goals I set for myself, and for the school, over these past two years. 

This past year was, in many ways, very productive in meeting goals, and yet, in some ways, was a much more difficult year from an administrative perspective than the year before that.  There were some difficult challenges resulting in difficult decisions.  The process of depending on God to provide a sense of direction and confirm decisions, which I have always relied upon through thirty years of ministry in Christian education, was put to the test and stretched quite a bit.  I realize that was God's way of teaching, and providing the opportunity to grow, through some very stressful moments and emotional experiences.  It is the sort of thing that makes us ready for what lies ahead.

There will be some changes next year, related to what has been learned.  Our discipline policy and procedure, which was put to the test on several occasions last year, and found to be somewhat lacking in effectiveness, has been changed to be more consistent with a distinctively Christian environment, and more effective in helping manage student behavior.  In practice, we hope to be more consistent with Biblical principles related to authority, obedience and discipline, and clearer and more focused in our expectations as well as enlisting parent involvement and clearer communication. 

We have learned that it is necessary to be more direct and deliberate with our approach to spiritual life as part of the school community in order to see our students experience spiritual growth.  Things don't just happen because we promote and protect a Christian environment.  In Bible teaching, corporate worship and mission involvement, we need to unpack a vision of involving our students in an educational experience that includes planning for their spiritual growth and development, with expectations that they will meet specific goals related to the practice of their faith in this school community.  This will be reflected in our worship, in Bible classes and in opportunities for Christian service that our school works to provide for its students.

We discovered, through the survey that Grace Works conducted for us at the end of last year, that our constituency rates us very, very high in the area of Christian distinctiveness and academic achievement, believes that we have an excellent balance between the emphasis on Christian atmosphere, academic achievement and involvement in athletics and fine arts, and by a fair majority considers us a step above other educational options they have pursued, including home education and other Christians schools.  We have made note of the areas where improvement was suggested.

The 2012-13 school year will include two extremely important steps for our school.  One is that our application for renewal of our accreditation has been approved by ACSI, and the self-study will take place during the next ten months.  That will determine whether we are meeting the accreditation standards and where we need to do some work to get there.  Accreditation is important, contrary to what some people might say about it, and one of our goals for the upcoming year is to make sure that we are exceeding the standards required for renewal.  The other is that we have undertaken the task of raising $100,000, primarily from an alumni community that will be given the opportunity to show their appreciation to their school for everything it contributed to their success.  Approximately $70,000 of this will be added to existing financial aid resources to provide additional funding for qualified families, while the remaining $30,000 will go to improving and upgrading the technology required to bring PCS into the 21st century in that regard.  The school board has already approved major upgrades that improve our server firewall protection, will result in a new elementary computer lab, and upgrade teacher computers. 

Parents will be asked to serve on the committees involved in both the accreditation self-study, and the annual fund.  Please put these two items on your daily prayer list as well, since that will be the key to our success, as it is for everything else we do.  Join our faculty, staff and students in praying for the success of Portersville Christian School each day. Our success depends on it.

Friday, July 6, 2012

The Survey Says...

As part of our preparation for the annual fund, current and former families of PCS from the past few years were asked to participate in an electronic survey of their impressions of the school.  The survey will provide valuable information about how the school is perceived among its own constituents as well as in the community.  We will use it as an evaluation tool, to make necessary improvements in the school program as well as a way to help with the annual fund. 

As of July 6, about 70% of the families represented in the group that was sent the tokens to participate had responded.  Some families had two members respond, while others had only one, but we have a pretty good picture of how the school is percieved from those responses.  Some good news includes the fact that positive responses overwhelmingly outweighed the negatives, especially among families with students currently enrolled or recently graduated.  Other good news includes the number of volunteers who used the survey to indicate their interest in helping in a particular area.

As expected, the school received its highest marks for its Christian distinctiveness, something mentioned as its most positive attribute by more than 80% of those who responded to the survey.  Respondents mentioned everything from the integration of Biblical principles into the curriculum to the overall spiritual atmosphere of the school, to the fact that what students learn at school supports what they are taught at church and what they learn at home.  More than half of those who responded, about 55%, mentioned the academic strength of the school and its academic reputation as a positive aspect.  The numbers add up to more than 100% because many people mentioned both of these aspects of education at PCS.  The presence of a well balanced, well rounded extracurricular fine arts and athletic program was also mentioned by at least 20% of those who responded to the survey.

Most of those who responded to the survey who indicated experience with other schools rated the education their children are receiving here as being superior to that they have had elsewhere, with a few parents noting that PCS compares equally or favorably to other Christian schools where they have been involved.  Several respondents noted that the regular curriculum here is comparable to, or even superior to, the honors program at a couple of local high schools.  It is always nice to hear that you are doing well in the eyes of your constituents, and to hear that the progress you are making is consistent with your mission and purpose. 

It is always nice to receive constructive criticism.  This is what helps you evaluate your progress in a most honest way, and make improvements.  Approximately 5% of the respondents to the survey offered information which will help us take advantage of opportunities for improvement. 

Expanding and upgrading our technological capabilities, including improvements to the two computer labs and the science lab were a priority for some parents.  One suggestion involved exposing PCS students to conferences, seminars, and gifted speakers related to increasing their exposure to Biblical worldview issues, political issues, and cultural arts.  Another suggested that we add foreign language exposure and "hands on" curriculum to the elementary school program.  Keeping a comprehensive list of tutoring opportunities was suggested as well.  Other suggestions included setting dates and making financial aid arrangements earlier in the summer.

One parent mentioned that whenever you have three people who get together in a situation like this, there will be differences of opinion about how things are done.  Homework was one of those subjects.  A couple of respondents thought that the homework load was too much, and that students should be doing most of their work at school, rather than at home.  A couple of others felt that the amount of homework at PCS was an indication of a lack of academic rigor, and that it should be increased as a means of getting more parents directly involved with their children's education.  Two of the respondents felt that discipline in the school is "too relaxed," while two others felt that discipline at PCS is too strict, and one indicated that our dress code is too restrictive.  Considering that these responses represent real perceptions, differing observations are certainly possible, especially with regard to issues such as this.  As far as discipline goes, there are some changes coming.  As far as homework goes, that's something you need to take up with the teachers. 

This information will now be used by the Annual Fund Committee to assist with their work, and it will also be passed along to the school board.  Obviously, it will most definitely be a factor in helping determine the direction we will go, and where we need to improve.  If you want to contribute to the discussion, please feel free to drop an email to the administrator,, and your suggestions will be included.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Introducing the Annual Fund

Though we have not quite settled on a name for it, Portersville Christian School will be introducing an annual fund, beginning with the 2012-13 school year.  The main purpose for the fund, according to its case statement, is to expand the donor base of the school beyond the immediate community of parents, reaching alumni, extended family and friends of the school with the need to provide additional funding.  This funding would help increase the amount of financial aid that can be distributed to families who would like to have the choice of Christian education for their children, but cannot afford to consider it without assistance.  It would also be applied to some of the fast growing budget needs of the school, much of it related to maintaining and expanding our technological base.

PCS is an educational bargain.  It costs each public school district in Pennsylvania an average of over $12,000 a year to put one student through their system.  It costs PCS approximately $7,000 per student to provide an education that is, by the available measurements, superior to what their counterparts in public schools are getting.  We already bridge the gap between cost and actual tuition and fees by providing about $1,500 per student in funds from other sources, including other fundraising, transportation income and contributions made by school supporters.  The goal of the annual fund is to raise $100,000.  That will go a long way.

If you are a family that sends children to the school here, you are the beneficiaries of many blessings that can't be measured in monetary amounts.  However, there are some things which we can see a clear financial benefit.  For one thing, if our teachers received a salary and benefits within a 20% range of what their colleagues in the public education system received, it would require each family in our school to pay an additional $700 per student.  That would bring our lower level teacher salaries up to the lowest level of the public school system.  What that means is that each teacher at PCS is making a sacrifice of potential earnings of almost $23,000 every year they teach here.  

Look at the measurable results.  Our students do much better on standardized tests, and on their SAT's and other college entrance exams than their counterparts in public school.  Our elementary students read better, read earlier, and deal with communication skills at a much faster pace.  The progress we make in reading and math is outstanding, documented by our Terra Nova test scores.  That's a nationally normed test, by the way, meaning that our students are generally in the top half of students nationwide. 

Ideally, we are always working to improve the Christian atmosphere on our campus.  That's something we can always work to improve, but in a recent survey conducted by GraceWorks, the company that is helping us with our annual fund, it is one of several aspects that the vast majority of our parents and students rate as "Outstanding."  Our students are involved in a variety of ministries that provide benefit to the community.  Visit the Passavant nursing care facility in Zelienople with one of our classes that goes there on a regular basis, or join our students in the Dominican Republic on a mission trip and you'll see a lot.  PCS is most definitely a cause worth supporting.

You can send your checks to the Annual Fund at Portersville Christian School, 343 E. Portersville Rd., Portersville, PA  16051 and mark them designated to the Annual Fund.  It will get in the right place.  And thank you for helping out.  God will bless you for your generosity.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

End of the Year Analysis: Why PCS is an Excellent Choice for your Child's Education

You'll be getting this in letter form, but I thought I would share this with you here. 

I want to take this opportunity to thank you for partnering with us in helping provide a distinctively Christian education for your child. This school year has gone by fast, and yet, while it seems time was flying, our students were making great strides forward in their educational experience. Please allow me to share a few of these accomplishments with you.

Our senior class graduated as a very accomplished group of young men and women.  Achieving a class average score on their Scholastic Aptitude Test of almost 1700, which was almost two hundred points above the national and state averages, was a nice compliment to having a class member make the list of National Merit Scholarship finalists, an elite group that represents the top 5% of all high school graduates in the country.  Many larger schools rarely, if ever, produce a National Merit finalist, but at PCS, nominees have become a relatively common occurrence in the past decade.  Our graduates found getting into the college of their choice relatively easy, with students entering Grove City College, Geneva College, Westminster College, with others going into specialist programs in nursing at Carlow University, Pharmacy and Pre-Med at Pitt.  Some are also looking at officer training and careers in the military.

Three members of our sophomore class also appear to be headed toward National Merit honors, with a little hard work and commitment.  I believe they are in the right place to achieve their goals.

Our elementary students have also been busy.  We took the Terra Nova test, which is a nationally-normed achievement test, for the first time this year, in place of the Stanford Test we have used previously.  Most private, Christian schools now use the Terra Nova because it is an updated test, and we get almost immediate feedback.  Our students, for the most part, scored in the “High Average” and “Above Average” range in Reading and Math, and as a whole, placed above average on the whole battery of tests.  Our Dibels scores in reading also came in pretty high this spring, and our teachers and students deserve a pat on the back for a job well done!

In Fine Arts, students from both elementary and high school came together for a tremendous performance of the musical “Annie” this spring.  Choir and Band have done very well with their performances this year, students are making real progress, and we once again hosted the regional band workshop here.  Two of our students have been selected to perform in community theaters in their respective communities this year. 

PCS Warriors athletic teams brought home four league championships, three tournament championships and one runner up this year.  Several athletes were selected for all-conference or all-tournament honors at their respective levels.
As we look ahead to 2012-13, there are some new things on the horizon.  One, the school is beginning an “Annual Fund” drive to expand our financial resources and bring in giving from outside the immediate tuition-paying parent community.  Of course, you are welcome to contribute in any way you are able, either with a donation, or by serving in some capacity to help the annual fund committee.

Second, we are beginning a re-accreditation process through the Association of Christian Schools International and Middle States Association of Schools and Colleges.  Accreditation is of vital importance in aligning our curriculum, and getting our students into college.  As it stands at the moment, PCS is the only fully accredited, private, Christian school in Butler, Lawrence and Mercer counties with an educational program that runs from Pre-K through 12th grade, and also offers AP and dual credit college courses. 

For a small school, we’re blessed.  I hope to see you in the fall.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Best Attended Event of the School Year

Re-enrollment letters went out prior to spring break, which means that you are now most likely aware that the board has approved a modest, 5% increase in tuition for the 2012-13 school year.  Enrollment, application fees and testing fees remain the same.  The decision to increase tuition at a Christian school is never an easy one.  The impact any increase will have on families is always a primary consideration, as it has been for our board.

It's been thirty years since I first signed a contract to teach at Broadway Baptist School on Houston's East side.  The school served a working class community, and managed to provide a high quality, Christ-centered education to 550 students who paid an average of $1,600 a year in tuition and fees.  The school was debt free, shared an older but efficiently organized facility with a church, utilized a lot of volunteers, and paid its teachers and staff salaries that were lower than first year teachers straight out of college made in the public school system.  We managed by sharing rent, carpooling, working part-time second jobs, stretching out coaching stipends and depending on the grace of God.  And that worked.  We provided an academically excellent education in a Christ-centered environment to the students of the families who also made sacrifices to send them our way.

In that regard, though the dollar amounts have become larger, not much has changed.  The fact of the matter is that what we accomplish at Portersville Christian School is disproportionately larger than the financial resources required to pay the bills.

Though we are not perfect, by any means, our faculty and staff works hard to provide a Christ-centered atmosphere that supports what parents are teaching their children at home.  We think of what we are doing as a discipleship ministry, encouraging our students to grow in their faith and listen for God's voice, calling them to serve Jesus by serving others.  We provide many opportunities for students to have their faith challenged and stretched so that they will grow into the mature servants of Jesus that God desires them to be in whatever occupation they choose.

The academic atmosphere at Portersville Christian School also goes well beyond the financial investment, as our students have distinguished themselves as being among the top achievers in the region.  Our SAT and Stanford scores, which are well above local, state and national averages, are testimonies of student accomplishment, and of the efforts of our faculty, who work for a salary and benefits well below the level of their public school counterparts.  And things haven't changed all that much in that many of them work second jobs, or share apartments, or live at home with their parents, drive old cars, and do a lot of other things to stretch their salaries and make it possible for them to continue to work here. That's a sacrifice they make willingly because they understand the importance of a Christ-centered education to the future.

We know, too, that we have many families who make sacrifices to send their children here.  That's why this Christian school, as well as many others, works so well.  We really are depending on the grace of God to work things out.  It wouldn't happen any other way.

And so, as we approach the coming year, the board has approved a budget that calls for an increase of 5% in tuition.  Among the other Christian schools in our area, that is a modest increase, and will keep PCS among the least expensive in terms of cost, and among the most generous in terms of financial aid.  The uncertainties of a struggling economy, and the effects of a long recession have created a gap that, in spite of the increase in tuition, still exists in the budget.  As a result, the school will have to step out on faith and trust that God will provide the difference that is needed.  We know that will be the case with many of our families as well.  I believe that God will bless both the financial assistance that is provided to make it possible for families to enjoy this blessing, and the sacrifices made by people to make sure that this ministry continues to be available.

Our response to that is a call to prayer.  On Tuesday, April 17, at 7:00 p.m. in the gym, those who come will be asked to participate in a prayer meeting asking God to meet the financial needs of the school, and of each family who feels his leadership to send their children here.  This will be part of the all-school annual meeting, and it should be the best attended event of the school year.  Please come and join us as we gather together and give this matter to the Lord.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Bubble That We Are

If I had a nickle for every time a parent told me that someone got on to them for putting their kids in Christian school, and not letting them experience the "real world," I'd be able to retire comfortably.  I've heard that many times, from well meaning Christians, and even from students. 

"Christian school is just a shelter from the real world.  Kids from Christian families should be salt and light in the public school system, and should be learning and experiencing from being in that kind of environment."

I will agree with the assertion that Christian school is a shelter from the "real world," and for some very good, Biblical reasons.  As to whether the public school is "the real world," or whether it presents an opportunity for kids to be "salt and light," well, that's quite another matter. 

Jesus spent three years with his chosen disciples, teaching, modeling, encouraging, loving, disciplining, scolding.  And after three intense years with God in the flesh, one of them never "graduated" on to the "real world," preferring instead to benefit himself by betraying Jesus to his enemies.  The other eleven either fled to protect themselves, or eventually got around to denying his name when confronted with having to take sides.  Jesus set up the church so that his followers would have a place to go when their strength needed to be renewed, when their training needed to be enhanced, and when their souls needed to be comforted after being out in, and beaten up by, the "real world."  How is it, then, that we would expect some kind of real Christian growth to take place in an environment where the content, philosophical approach, and moral atmosphere is not allowed to even be influenced by the truth, much less to be a conveyor of it? 

Most social research, Christian or secular, shows that there is a steady stream of young people out the back door of the churches in this country.  Somewhere between 70% and 80% of the children of families who raise them in the church will leave it by the time they graduate from college.  It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that the most pervasive influence in their lives during their younger years comes from the schools they attend.  Nor does this have to hit anyone in the head to make sense when you see that most of the 20% to 30% who remain in the church have spent at least some significant time in a Christian educational setting, whether in grade school, high school or college. 

The Bible makes parents completely and totally responsible for the education of their children.  There is no other option.  Christian schools recognize this by submitting to parental authority when it comes to their children, and working in an educational partnership with them.  Parents are involved in virtually every aspect of the educational process here, from the governing board to operating the lunch room.  Next to integrating Biblical truth into the curriculum, this is one of the unique, and distinctively Christian aspects of a Christian school.

Contrast that with any public school.  Parents are generally welcome only when it will benefit the school.  Since the school is an institution of the state, which is forced to be "neutral" when it comes to matters of faith, no Biblical principles or practices can be integrated into the curriculum or life of the school.  How can you teach truth, when you can't acknowledge the source of truth?  The effect of that on students, even on those from homes that are staunchly committed to Christ, is to water down and weaken their faith.  In the Christian school, our plan is to fertilize, water, and strengthen their faith and we have the tools to do it.  So we are in a bubble, much like a greenhouse or an incubator.  And at Portersville, we're in a really good one that is doing an excellent job. 

Our hope is that when our students leave the "bubble," they will be prepared to face the "real world" with all of the full armor of God (Ephesians 6:10). 

Monday, February 6, 2012

It's Time to Think About Re-enrollment

We've just started our second semester, and there's still three weeks left in basketball season, but it is time to think about next school year, and begin planning in advance for what you will do.  Re-enrollment is just around the corner.  So let me give you a few good reasons for you to start planning for your family's return to Portersville Christian School.

First, our school is striving to be distinctively Christian.  That is not just a label we want to use for promotion, it is a goal.  Christian education is more than just adding Bible classes and chapel to a regular class schedule.  To be distinctively Christian is to understand that God is the sovereign and all powerful creator of the universe.  It isn't just something we tack on, it is something that must be integrated and blended in to everything we do.  It means that we can teach our students truth, and show the source who revealed it to us.

It also means that we can create community within the school in the same way that the Holy Spirit created community in the early church.  The mission and purpose of our very existence is to make disciples who will be capable and prepared to take up leadership in the Kingdom of God, and fulfill His purpose for their lives.  The fact that most of our current students are actively involved in their local church, serve in missions willingly, and that many of our graduating seniors are preparing for kingdom service is evidence that this is what we are all about.

Second, our school practices academic excellence.  With graduating classes achieving average scores on the SAT above the 1600 range consistently, with national merit semi-finalists and finalists in virtually every graduating class, and with achievement test scores in elementary school that average in the top quartile nationally, students at PCS are challenged to do their very best in the classroom.   Our students consistently produce the highest SAT scores in this tri-county area, and go on to be admitted into many prestigious and challenging colleges and universities.  As the only fully accredited, private, Christian school in three counties, you can be sure of receiving a high quality education in the same place all through high school.

The third feature of PCS is affordability.  You get more for your money here, and that's not just an advertising slogan.  Our spiritual life and academic standards are as high as those schools in the Pittsburgh area which charge much more.  And those schools nearby which charge less are either not accredited, or do not offer as much in the way of either learning experiences or student life, such as fine arts and athletics.

A school that has been around as long as PCS has some advantages that you will not find anywhere else.  The gap between achievement in public education, and in private, Christian schools like us is widening, and alternatives, like charter schools and cyber schools, are even further behind in achievement.  They offer some conveniences but little to nothing in the way of academic growth or spiritual life.  You already have your child enrolled in one of the best places in Western Pennsylvania to receive a well-rounded education that nourishes heart, soul and mind.  Why not plan to join us next fall?

Thursday, January 19, 2012

School Choice and where we go from here in Pennsylvania Christian Schools

I'm sure you've heard by now that Senate Bill 1, otherwise known as the "voucher proposal" or the "school choice bill" did not make it through the state legislature in any form.  The expansion of EITC, which was billed as a "sure thing," also did not make it through.  I'm sure that there are a wide variety of pundits and political experts who can explain why something that many politicians, including the Governor, went out on a limb to proclaim as almost a "sure thing" did not make it through the House of Representatives.  There were many people within the Christian education community who believed that the political atmosphere in Pennsylvania was "never better" to get this legislation enacted.  Others thought that the slow economy and the extremely tight state budget made it more difficult for legislators to consider this proposal.
Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation.  Psalm 146:3.
So where do we go from here? 
Personally, seeing how things developed here with regard to school choice, and having observed and participated in a similar scenario in another state, with more or less the same outcome, I'm inclined to change direction just a little bit and push for expansion of EITC, rather than start another school choice/voucher initiative.  EITC doesn't involve state money, which ultimately means it will not involve state control of education, either, and it is more suited to the kind of financing we need to be doing in the Christian school ministry.  It allows businesses a tax break for their involvement, which is not only fair, given the tax exempt status of a Christian school, but practical, since the money goes to students who are attending the school, increasing opportunities for students to be enrolled, and benefiting the school's budget.  
I think it is also time for legislators to consider all educational expenses as being tax deductible, including tuition and fees paid if the family opts to send their children to a private school.  That's only fair, since the public educational monopoly gets money from everyone, including people who don't have children enrolled in them.  That doesn't seem to be on the table right now, however.  
I know several of our families took the time to call their state representative or senator, and voice their support for school choice in Pennsylvania.  Trust me, that did not fall on deaf ears.  Representative Richard Stevenson, of Grove City, who represents the district that our school is in, actually came by the campus for a visit and spent about 90 minutes visiting classes and chatting with students and teachers.  He already had an appreciation and a good idea of the work we do here, and his visit helped give him an even better perspective of our value to the community. 
PCS is the only fully accredited PK through 12th grade Christian School in Butler, Lawrence and Mercer counties.  That gives us numerous advantages in seeking out prospective students and prospective assistance in financing the education we provide.  Please join me in prayer for God's leadership as we move forward to glorify him through his son.  Depending on God is the only way forward.