School opening in Ohio church will be ‘model’ of affordability

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Bible
Bible on a school desk in a classroom. |

With funds raised by seven churches, a new school will open inside an Ohio church this fall in hopes of becoming a model for other churches to launch affordable private schools for neighborhood students. low-income, as the state government will pay thousands in tuition fees per student.

Westside Christian School will open Aug. 25 at Memorial Baptist Church in the Hilltop neighborhood of Columbus, Ohio, where it will serve at least 40 children between kindergarten and second grade.

Aaron Baer, ​​president of the Center for Christian Virtue, an organization that advocates for religious freedom and other faith-based public policies, described the project in an interview with The Christian Post.

Baer said many children, especially those who attend school downtown, do not have their needs met. He said many students graduate from the Columbus Public School District without knowing how to read or do basic math.

“It’s just an unacceptable system,” he told CP. “And then obviously the COVID shutdowns made everything worse.”

The CCV president said the organization aims to provide children with a “high quality Christian education”.

The Christian leader said the new school is a pilot project for CCV and that the organization wants to house more Christian schools in church premises in the future. In an email to supporters, Baer said CCV already has “20 churches that have come forward to say they would like to open a school next year.

While Baer acknowledged the many homeschooling options available, he said homeschooling isn’t a viable solution for many families.

“So we wanted to develop a model to build an affordable and scalable way to start schools in churches,” the Christian leader said. “You know, the body of Christ doesn’t need more bricks and mortar. We have churches on every corner that are empty six days a week.”

Ohio Church
Memorial Baptist Church in Columbus, Ohio |

Since the construction of new school buildings is not financially viable, CCV has chosen to house the Christian schools in churches, which are already empty during the week. The Westside Christian School was established for less than $100,000, made possible by private donations from local congregations.

“We had seven churches meeting at Hilltop in Columbus, one of the poorest and most dangerous neighborhoods in the city, in fact the state,” Baer said. “And they got together and put together the money to help the church get up to code for the first classrooms and hire the principal, and then hire the four teachers.”

Baer said that although there are 40 students registered for the first day of classes, more places are available for students to register.

“It’s been a summer of outreach programs. So going door to door, talking to families about it,” he said. “You know, the school sells itself in a lot of ways. When you go to these families and say, ‘Hey, would you like a 10-to-1 or 15-to-one student-to-teacher class ratio? They jump on it.”

According to Baer, ​​students who enroll can use a voucher through the state’s EdChoice scholarship program, which he says is $5,500 per child.

The program is not without criticism.

As WOUB reported on Sunday, David Carey, the deputy legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio, is concerned about the diversion of funds to a school like this.

“The diversion of taxpayer dollars to schools of this nature is a very troubling step,” Carey said. “An expansion of this type of program would be a troubling new step in eroding the separation of church and state and establishing what amounts to a state-sanctioned religion.”

Carey also thinks voucher funding for the CCV program would take money away from struggling public schools. He also argues that children will not be exposed to a diversity of viewpoints in a private Christian school in the same way as they would in a public school.

Baer accused the ACLU of Ohio of preferring children not having their needs met rather than a Christian school giving them a “good education.” The activist said the legal advocacy group’s stance was “the epitome of heartlessness”.

Baer cited the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling this year in favor of religious schools that were denied funding through Maine’s school voucher program. The High Court has ruled that states cannot deny public funding to religious schools based on religion.

The vision for the program was born in 2020 for CCV to create a “model for churches to start financially viable and affordable schools, 5 days a week, in their existing Sunday School classrooms.”

Baer said the ultimate goal is to see a school in every church.

“If you look at the early Christians, especially the Christians in America, we had such a heart and such a concern for literacy,” he said. “Partly because it was the key to success for people to be able to take care of themselves and think for themselves. But also because we wanted people to be able to read the word of God.”

“And, you know, the academic crisis that we’re in right now is not just a moral crisis. It’s also a basic reading, writing, and arithmetic issue,” he continued. “This is an opportunity for the Church to return to one of our first missions in America and get serious about the education game like we haven’t in years.”

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