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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.