Tuesday, December 13, 2016

A Real Chance to Make a Difference

A Christian school is private, in that it must generate its funding and support from private sources.  It is private in that it is an educational alternative to publicly funded schools.  It is private in that it does represent a choice for parents who decide that's where their children need to be.  It's private in that since its primary means of financing is tuition paid by those who make the choice to send their children, it is also an income decision. 

Practically, it is those things.  Inherently, it is not.  If we genuinely believe in our mission and purpose statements, and in the general Christian philosophy of education that most of our Christian schools have in common, then that puts a Christian school squarely in the middle of the church's assigned function of discipleship.  Instead of a couple of hours a week in a church program, some of which isn't even devoted to discipleship and learning, a Christian school has students under its influence and teaching for more than six hours a day, five days a week.  That much time makes a difference.  It is visible, not only in the disproportionately high number of Christian school graduates in the ministry and on the mission field, but in the fact that, among the younger generation, while more than 80% are leaving church by the time they graduate from college, that figure virtually reverses itself among Christian school graduates and former students. 

Unlike most other private schools, Christian schools generally tend to be self-supporting.  In some cases, schools do receive some church support, or have access to grants and endowments, but for the most part, the funding for a Christian school comes primarily from those parents who consider it the best choice for their children.  We're right up there when it comes to academic achievement, extra curricular activities, and even in educational services, but most of our income depends on the parents who send their children.  Since those same parents also pay taxes to support the public school system, by default, not design, Christian school education is not accessible to most parents who would make that choice if it were possible. 

As part of our advocacy for Christian education, PCS participates with ACSIPA, an organization of Pennsylvania Christian school administrators who meet regularly with state legislators on behalf of the Christian schools that they serve.  Pennsylvania does recognize a parent's right to choose their child's education, and combines that recognition with some financial benefits that are designed to make that choice easier, and not solely based on income.  ACSIPA supports the continued existence of school bus transportation funds and tax credit programs for private schools, among other benefits, which help make schools more accessible to families regardless of their income. 

The EITC/OSTC program is one of those benefits.  EITC stands for Educational Improvement Tax Credit.  Scholarship money is provided from private sources for students to attend private schools, including Christian schools.  In exchange for the contribution, the state provides a tax credit, as much as 90%, return on corporate taxes paid to them.  The money is used to provide scholarships for students whose families qualify by income, equalizing the expense of sending them to a private, Christian school.  The OSTC scholarship is similar, an "opportunity scholarship" for income-qualified families to get their child out of a low-performing public school system and into a school where their child's academic growth can be nurtured, along with their spirit. 

Any business in Pennsylvania which pays corporate tax can apply to be able to receive tax credits for scholarships at private schools.  In addition to the 90% return from DCED, the whole amount is also deductible from federal taxes, so Christian business owners can provide a blessing for Christian schools, and be blessed in return.  The state legislature, as a result of the advocacy of groups like ACSIPA, recently expanded the cap on the scholarship programs, and increased the scope of the kinds of taxes eligible for this program.  That means that up to $75 million is available for scholarships for students attending Christian schools, and up to $50 million is available to students from low performing school districts, including the one in our area. 

If you own a business and would like to understand more about the scholarship program, and the ways your business could benefit from it, please contact PCS at 724-368-8787. 

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