A blunt challenge
The Church should fund education at Christian schools
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When I suggested in this space a few weeks ago that a growing number of Christian schools are becoming “elitist,” I should have been ready for the response. When readers think something in WORLD isn’t quite right, they don’t mind saying so!
Now, several weeks later, I wish I had taken the time and the space to get it right.
The term elite, in my computer dictionary, carries with it a handful of words both positive and negative in their connotations. To be numbered among the elite might be a good thing—but it might almost as easily also be a put-down.
In my recent column, I said that the growth of Christian schools over the last generation, both in number and in quality, had exacted “some cost.” That may well have understated the facts. The actual cost of enrollment in a typical Christian school has increased by a minimum multiple of two, three, four—and probably even more—over the last few decades.
That dramatic increase has jacked up the cost of a Christian school education out of the reach of thousands of middle-class evangelical families. Many get through by severe scrimping and saving. The really serious impact, of course, is on minority and low-income families.
Perhaps no one anywhere has given more thoroughly thoughtful focus to these issues than Dr. Alan Pue, head of the Barnabas Group Inc., based in Castle Rock, Colo. A longtime WORLD loyalist, Pue has extensive experience in school administration and consulting. Much of that comes together in his book Rethinking Sustainability: A Strategic Finance Model for Christian Schools. Pue thinks it confuses the issue when I refer to some Christian schools as elitist. He says: “As someone has astutely observed, ‘No money, no mission.’ Indeed, fiscal sustainability is among the gravest challenges facing virtually every Christian school in this country and around the world.
Pue continues: “Here’s reality. Schooling, for many reasons including the fact that 75 percent of the typical Christian school budget goes toward staffing, is not all that affordable. No Christian school of which I am aware intentionally intends to create financial barriers for those hoping to access such an education. For many families Christian schooling is, however, beyond their financial reach. If we can’t make Christian schooling affordable we’ve still got to find a way to make it accessible.
“Here’s another reality. While Christian schools are engaged in both educational and life transformation efforts, at the end of the day they are not unlike a business—they must produce enough money to pay their bills and fulfill their mission. This is where the evangelical church could make a huge difference. If local churches would make even the slightest effort to assist Christian schools by providing scholarships for genuinely needy families, the challenge of delivering a quality Christian education for every student regardless of their financial condition could be addressed.”
Pue is blunt in his challenge: “Sadly, however, the church chooses to ignore the current reality of the children and young people who are forced to attend their local, state-funded public schools, schools which do more to turn the minds of our kids from Christ than anything other than the pervasive media that inundates our kids on a daily basis.”
According to Pue, “I’ve seen this reality up close and find the utter indifference within the American evangelical church to step up and fulfill their mandate to express God’s love ‘to the least of these’ disheartening and maddening. We are long past time for talking. Talking about the problem is to do nothing about the problem.”
To counter that current trend, Pue produced his newest book this past summer. It’s titled Rethinking Discipleship: Why Christian Schooling Matters.
Sounds more democratic than elite!
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