We’re living in a time when controversies are raging in America’s public schools.
Our public schools are under intense scrutiny like never before. Many believe education, morality and discipline standards are dropping. What are concerned parents supposed to do?
With U.S. students deserting the public school system in droves — nearly 2 million since the pandemic started — public schools are in a quandary. Parents are desperate for an alternative. And private Christian schools are grabbing their attention.
Is it time for a “revolution” in our education system? And can Christian schools lead the way?
Can Christian schools save the day?
Based on a new, nationwide study conducted by my company, DickersonBakker, eight out of 10 Christian school leaders say there’s surging demand for Christian education in their area. And the same number says enrollment in their school has risen since the pandemic, with 43% reporting a significant increase.
COVID-19 caused a tidal wave of uncertainty, shutting down public schools and forcing students into online studies at home. Parents witnessed disorganized, chaotic virtual classrooms, and saw their kids slide academically. Within weeks, they’d seen enough to know it wasn’t working.
Seismic cultural shift
During the pandemic, for the first time, parents could actually see what public schools were teaching — and not teaching — their kids. And many didn’t like what they saw. Liberal teaching on sexual orientation, gender fluidity, and racial injustice (Critical Race Theory or CRT) left many parents in “woke shock” — and ready to pull the plug on public school education.
‘Awakening’ to choice
As you may have seen in the news recently, some states have enacted “school choice” legislation, creating state-funded scholarships to help families pay for private school tuition. Parents have suddenly realized they have real choices for their kids beyond public school education. Many have begun looking at alternatives, including homeschooling and private Christian schools. Thousands of parents have re-examined their own Christian and traditional values — and found they weren’t aligned with the public school system. Christian schools have emerged as the number one alternative choice.
Can Christian schools rise to the challenge?
With this parental “awakening,” you’d think Christian school leaders across the nation would be doing the happy dance, right?
Wrong. Many Christian school leaders are unsure how they’ll cope with an influx of students. Their nerves are jangling.
With parents knocking on the door, eager to sign up their kids, Christian schools are suddenly coming face-to-face with their limitations — constraints one Christian school leader described to me as “gnarly problems.”
These “gnarly” limitations include lack of classroom space, not enough trained teachers to cope with the surge in students, aging technology that needs to be replaced, and insufficient resources. Christian school leaders are asking, “Where’s the money going to come from to fund these critical needs and support our school’s growth going forward?”
There’s a persistent myth in Christian school circles that tuition fees should cover everything. But private schools can’t survive on tuition fees alone. They need a fundraising plan integrated into their business model — one that intentionally builds relationships with donors to fill the funding gap, and lays the bedrock of sustainability. Without it, things will likely go South quickly. And the enrollment bubble will burst.
The revolution has begun
Despite these challenges, one thing is clear: the Christian education revolution is underway. Many parents across America reject what they see as an academically broken and morally flawed public school system — a system that’s out of touch with their values and unable to deliver the quality of education their children deserve.
There will be growing pains. But Christian schools are ready to tackle funding challenges. And America’s parents are ready to support Christian schools financially — and otherwise — to lead the way toward a better education and brighter future for their kids.
Hold on tight — the ride is just beginning!
Derric Bakker is the president of DickersonBakker (www.DickersonBakker.com), a consultancy firm specializing in helping faith-based nonprofit organizations in the U.S., Canada, and overseas engage donors and maximize their charitable giving. Read the full report at Charitable Giving in the Wake of COVID-19.