The Power of Christian Schooling
May 2022 A few weeks ago, I visited Emmanuel Christian Academy in Akron, OH where I spent time visiting classrooms and meeting with an exceptional educator, Rena Suber, and her team. Later that day I met with those same leaders and the school board to discuss how ECA could become a financially stronger school.
That is a genuine challenge for ECA
as it is for most urban schools. While
the state of Ohio offers educational
vouchers for students seeking to escape
under-performing public schools, the
amount allotted to each student is a
meager $5,200, less than a third of what
it costs to educate a child in an Ohio public
school. And here’s the kicker: No school accepting the Ohio voucher can charge additional tuition even when the cost of education at that school exceeds the $5,200 limit. The tuition and fees at ECA equal nearly $8,200, thus the school must find a way to make up the $3,000 difference. It is a daunting challenge. The dilemma faced by the leadership team, faculty, and board is shared with nearly every other urban, faith- based school in the USA. All are underfunded. All therefore struggle financially to provide a quality, transformative education to the most under-served children in our country.
Where is the Support?
Now here’s the truly maddening part of this story. Neither government at any level nor most evangelical churches take any note of, nor provide any resources to schools like ECA who are doing a heroic job of educating a truly forgotten minority. It is now two years since the death of George Floyd at the hands of a rogue police officer in Minneapolis, MN. The aftermath of that event led to large swaths of neighborhoods in our major cities being destroyed by riots. Money poured into the coffers of the radical organization, Black Lives Matter. Regrettably, both politicians and pastors used the incident to make inflammatory and unfounded comments, all while ignoring the dismal reality of urban education in most of the country. More upsetting is the fact that no funds given to BLM nor any of the myriad commentaries I found, whether delivered from our pulpits and or read on evangelical blog sites, addressed the real needs of the most vulnerable in these failing communities. Indeed, the opposite reality has become the most common response to our failing urban public schools. At the federal level the current administration has chosen to go to war with urban charter schools and does everything possible to limit funding for faith-based schools. A single statistic will help make that point. President Joe Biden’s 2023 budget allocates $88.3 billion in discretionary education spending, $440 million of which is directed toward charter schools and basically zero for faith-based schools. Do the math. Charters receive .0005% of the total federal budget for education while faith- based schools receive nothing. The situation, with a handful of outliers, improves little at the state and local level. Here's the Reality
When one digs beneath the surface, the problems only get worse. Take the Boston Public Schools as an example. As Roger Lowenstein notes regarding the recently proposed budget for those schools, “The $1.3 billion keeps expanding even as the student population shrinks. But the money buys failure. . . Only 25% of black elementary schoolers test at grade level in English” yet “BPS is seeking $49 million in the coming year to keep under-enrolled schools open.” All the while here’s reality: “Boston charter schools are among the best in the nation” graduating 90% of their students. Also: “At $27,000, Boston’s (public schools) annual per pupil spending is second only to New York City’s.” Charter schools receive a much smaller amount to educate their children and there is a lengthy waiting list for students seeking to escape the flailing public schools. (cited in WSJ, April 23, 2022) Those statistics are reproduced in city after city around the country, especially in our large and mid-sized urban areas. In a word, we are failing our most vulnerable children and when I say we I mean both state and church. While our current administration is seeking to spend trillions to “save the planet” and the church is spending hundreds of millions to reach the “unreached” world with the gospel (certainly a worthwhile goal) neither is doing much to save the hundreds of thousands of kids right in our back yards. It is the most egregious failure of our times and no one seems to notice except the parents of those urban kids and the criminal justice system that ends up incarcerating so many of them. Adopt Urban Schools!
What a difference the church could make if it did one simple thing; adopt urban schools like Emmanuel Christian Academy and support their efforts to make a real difference in the lives of those most at risk. We could then accomplish what happened in reaching those behind the Iron Curtain after the fall of the Soviet Union. Do you remember the Co-Mission Project that worked in an unprecedented manner to create a coalition of mission agencies? The Catholic school system has made this effort for nearly two hundred years in this country. The evangelical church has, however, been utterly absent from any such endeavors, choosing instead to support a secular school system that has done more to turn our children from faith than any other influence in our country except maybe media in its many forms. That is what motivated me to write my book, Rethinking Discipleship: Why Christian Schooling Matters, and why as I write this newsletter I am on my way to Buffalo, NY to help another struggling Christian school. Christian schooling done right can make a difference, a huge difference, especially in urban communities. Those schools, however, face enormous challenges, among the most demanding is how to fund their efforts. Sadly, even organizations and associations that claim to represent the cause of Christian schooling have done little to actually help those schools make a compelling case for the remarkable work that is being done on behalf of countless children and young people in our country and around the world. If you doubt me, ask yourself this simple question: When was the last time you received a message about the power of Christian schooling? Unless your child attends a Christian school, I doubt you ever have. If we are to fulfill our calling to make disciples of all people, that reality needs to change. It is my greatest desire to help the church see and embrace this great opportunity to change the world by changing the lives of children whatever their financial reality. Thanks for your support in my efforts.