February 5, 2018
The recent tax reform bill passed by Congress has had some interesting effects on the country. A long list of major companies announced that they would be giving all of their employees, bonuses and others have increased the minimum wage, all of which is positive for private school parents. Also included in the tax reform plan is the extension to 529 college savings plans to include K – 12 students as well, which means private school families can withdraw up to $10,000 a year to use for the expense of private schools like FCS. At the very least it provides our families with more choice and more control over their income, when it comes to how to fund the private Christian education they have chosen for their children.
For many years now, parents have been provided with options regarding their “choice” in schools for the education of their children. All parents in the state of Florida have some form of school choice available to them. The choices are basically between public and private schools. Public school choice provides that a parent in a “failing” public school district has an option to transfer to a higher performing district school or magnet program. The other public school choice is the charter school. Charter schools are publicly funded institutions that have more autonomy and freedom from bureaucratic control than standard public schools. They operate through a contract between the organizers of the school and the school district. Charter schools must be nonsectarian and non-religious, tuition free, and must admit all students regardless of ability level or disability, like any other public school. They cannot be a Christian school, even if they are located in a church building. Private school choices have increased to include more parochial schools, non-religious prep schools, and various types of Christian schools. In addition, states like Florida, have introduced corporate tax options, which allow for businesses to direct a portion of their corporate tax to a fund which can be accessed by any family whose income meets designated financial or educational criteria so they can attend a private school using these corporate tax funds. In addition to these opportunities home schools and virtual schools are growing at an ever increasing rate. The point is, education in the 21st Century certainly provides many options for parents no matter what their economic status, religious affiliation, or their family background.
So how does all of that impact the families of Florida Christian School. I believe the reality is, that one of the most important financial decisions a family has to make is in regard to their choice of school for their children. It also brings to mind the thought as to, given the variety of choices a parent has regarding education, why would a parent choose a Christian school? More specifically, why would a parent choose Florida Christian School? Every year I speak to many families who have had their children at FCS throughout all or most of their children’s school career. These families made the choice to do whatever it took to see their children complete their education at FCS. Recently, a graduate of FCS came by my office to proudly tell me that she and her husband were enrolling both of their children here at FCS for next year in the pre-school and kindergarten. She added that even though they had other choices, they were choosing FCS. They believe that it is the best choice for their children. When Christian parents make a commitment which has lasted 20 years, or when they enter into a commitment which could potentially last 12 to 15 years, it is amazing. For me personally, it is very humbling to hear these parents talk about their choice because I know that it is only because of God’s grace that our school can even exist.
The answer to the school choice question may be complex for some, but for most of the parents at FCS I believe that it is actually quite simple. Many of the characteristics as to why the level of commitment is high among FCS parents are similar to all private schools, but there is something else that is quite unique. Just as other private schools, FCS operates by standards recognized by the state. We are accountable for results in student performance and in fiduciary responsibility in order to maintain accreditation standards from multiple agencies. As a private school we have the freedom to operate autonomously, exempted from many intrusive regulations, except for health, safety and nondiscrimination issues. We differ somewhat in that we are selective as to the admission of students, and our school is supported by tuition. But it is in the stipulation that public schools and charter schools must be nonsectarian and non-religious that we are distinctively different than them. Our very purpose for existence is our spiritual mission to this community. Above all we seek to honor Christ in the educational process and in learning how to have a personal relationship with the God of the Bible. It is for this reason that parents and families would make a long lasting commitment to Florida Christian School. Yes, as a school, we have the responsibility to provide a comprehensive educational program, preparing students to compete in the culture in which we live. But the level of commitment can only truly be explained by the mutual understanding between the parent and the school of the spiritual mission we exist to fulfill, and it is in that characteristic that explains why a parent would commit to FCS for their child’s entire education.