A client asked me this question, and I realized every pastor in America should be asking it. Here is the question as I understand it: Although we have in the past promoted going to public school to be salt and light and also promoted the idea of taking advantage of educational offerings that were not specifically Christian, in a time when we feel out children’s safety, physically and psychologically will be at risk if they go to a school accepting federal funding, and we tell parents to remove their children from public schools and colleges, what options are there for supporting them in this endeavor?
Good news, you have a number of options. Here is a preliminary answer.
The primary concern at this moment for you is k-12, so let’s address those options first, and briefly mention others later.
1. Private or church school
The church can make a school. This is no small undertaking and there are many paths depending upon congregational needs. Nevertheless, given the urgency of the situation, let me give you general highlights of what I would recommend.
a. If the question is, how can I have a reasonable school the shortest amount of time possible, with the most limited resources, the answer I would recommend is be an ACE (Accelerated Christian Education) school. The upside is that there is much going for the idea of individualized education, that the plan can be instituted economically and obviates the need for highly educated staff. It has a long track record. The downsides are that it is too 2D, that the ACE organization is hide-bound conservative, and that the curriculum is weak in some spots, particularly at the high school level. However, these deficiencies are usually overcome by doing such things as purchasing other curriculum, bringing in guest lecturers, and planning group activities for the children, perhaps in the afternoon. ACE is the easiest to get into, but you will want to be supplementing it or migrating to AOP for the long term, is my guess.
Alpha Omega is a more popular curricula and has more choices. It too, is definitely evangelical. It can be used like an ACE school in that it can be all individualized and all not teacher directed. They still have print based material, and are now pushing computer delivered but 3-12 only. Indeed, AO has so many more choices altogether, so that for someone quite new to the situation, it might be overwhelming. But their staff is normally very helpful. They do have teacher training and support, but they do not have help organizing a school, because that is so state specific.
They have three options, depending on how teacher-led you want the school to be. They even offer dual credit (high school/college). So with a bit more learning curve, this is a great option, even for long term.
b. In almost all cases, it is important that the school be a separate legal entity from the church. Normally it is best to start a private school with separate 501(c)3 status, with a charter that firmly establishes measures that insure the church’s views and oversight in the school.
There are, however, other means of setting up schools depending upon the obstacles of the particular case.
While it is not easy to start and get a 501(c)3, it is possible. Alternatively, it may be possible to have one established at the denominational/ fellowship level, with each congregation’s school a subsidiary chapter. Consult a denominational attorney about this.
C. Do not fail to consider insurances and legal retainer. Have a battle ready plan. Again, the denomination may be able to help: you may have a lawyer at the ready already, or if many churches begin schools, perhaps together you may hire such help. Many schools and daycares run badly and continue to do so. This OUGHT to be comfort to those that run well. Occasionally, however, very weird things happen: a parent gets mad, a public official over-reaches, or you get targeted by a wrong-headed activist group. This is not time to be frightened of this, as Franklin Graham said on the steps of our capitol building: “If someone offers to sue you over this, then tell ‘em, ‘come on’. There are more of us than there are of them.”
Every state has different rules about this. When and where it can be accomplished, the results are outstanding. Every year since the 1980s, based on standardized tests, home educated children handily outperform their public school peers. My own observation is that they tend to be much more mature and better able to comport themselves socially.
Fortunately in Texas, we have a right to educate our children privately in our homes.
Today there are many options, including online, teacher-led options, and even free (but there again you are getting into public school). Consequently, if a family can provide care for a child even to the point of just safety and encouraging 2 or 3 hours a day studying, they can home school.
Families can hire instructors privately or in some combination to teach certain subjects. So for instance, parents get together and hire a coach and a physics teacher. Similarly, they could hire a tutoring service and select a curricula and send the child with the book to the tutor – and since the child is totally under the parents’ direction and spends most of their time with the parent then they can be called home-schooled. There are a number of models that are somewhat blended.
For the question of higher education, of course there are already many Christian colleges. Given that the public schools are now so costly, the Christian offerings do not seem so expensive by contrast. Further, given the low quality of public education, and the bias in the curricula, and the increase push to see all students go through college, there is a question about the cost/benefit of attending college. Tradesmen will be in short supply and so a technical school may be a more remunerative route. We will need the church to take up more of the critical thinking and higher education market, so we have some of that that is not overwhelmed by darkness, but I think that is afoot also.
The preschool arena is being swamped by the same sexual identity agenda that has recently hit the news, if more quietly. Because of this widespread concern, AOP is working on a preschool curriculum. Many suspect that the federal government is reaching toward control the curricula in order to control personality formation. So not just as an evangelistic mission, but also for any of the church’s children’s safety, having a full child development center is really a need.
2. Home – educators’ Cooperative
There is a possibility of making a coop. I hear of some groups of parents doing this. What is legal depends very much on the legal definition of home education and the rules in that state.
The definition of homeschooling in Texas is
A home schooled student predominantly receives instruction in a general, elementary, or secondary education program that is provided by the parent, or a person standing in parental authority, in or through the child’s home [Texas Education Code 29.916 (a)] (http://www.thsc.org/homeschooling-in-texas/the-thsc-definition-of-a-home-schooled-student/ May 18, 2016).
In the one such parent cooperative homeschooling school the parents take the entire responsibility for the children, must be physically present, and apportion duties among themselves. Some teach and other assist. There is one single mom who cannot make it all 5 days and the parents cover for her. Notice, that no one just drops off their children. While parents apportion duties, each family makes decisions about education and is responsible for their child’s supervision.
This group of parents does have an arrangement with a church. The church pays no extra insurance because the parents, not the church is responsible. The group has some very experienced educators and home-educators and is evidently a member/client of THSC. How much or whether they pay rent, I do not know.
This option of a home-school coop is very appealing but does have possible potholes. It is the one option most likely to be questioned by authorities. If you wish to research this option, you might consult the Texas Home School Coalition or the Home School Legal Defense Association names. I recommend every home educator be a member of one or the other.
BTW, This is the time for home-school conventions. THSC will have one in The Woodlands July 21-23.http://www.thsc.org/events/texas-home-school-conventions/. Every other metro area has a large Christian home schooling association. The THSC Woodlands should be the largest in the state.
There are options. They should be explored. While it is unimaginable that we are where we are, nevertheless, we should expect that if the measure is overturned, it will come back. You would be very surprised at the age cohort difference in views, such that young people today are far more…. liberal is not a good word here… unconventional?…. on these issue than their parents.
Please post your resources and questions. I will be glad to aggregate and curate resources for such endeavors. There have always been lots of reasons to start congregation affiliated schools. Now we have another — more pressing one.
I am glad to help in working with parents, boards, and administrators. Particularly in terms of organizational strategy, management development, sorting through pedagogical alternatives, and evaluating sales people’s claims I might be able to help. 512-534-5425
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