Parochiaid Is Dead! Long Live The Christian School!

In the November election in the State of Michigan Proposal C, the so-called antiparochiaid amendment to the state constitution, was approved by an overwhelming margin. 

This means that in Michigan, as of December 18, state aid to non-public schools is constitutionally prohibited. 

In other words, parochiaid is dead! Though the legislature had passed a bill granting such aid, and though this had been hailed as a step in the right direction by many public officials as well as by officials of various non-public schools, including those of the National Union of Christian Schools and its constituent schools, and by many churchmen,—nevertheless the electorate of the state clearly and decisively expressed disapproval, with the result that when this amendment becomes effective, all state financial aid must cease. Parochiaid is dead! 

Perhaps it is not quite buried as yet. 

Apparently the issue of private schools’ exemption from property taxes is no more an issue. In fact, it now appears that this never was a real issue, but was used as a scare tactic to induct people to vote against the proposal. At least, there is no longer any mention of this matter by the media. 

But there is considerable discussion and question among public and non-public school officials about some of the so-called fringe benefits which may also be prohibited by the new amendment to the constitution. On the one hand, apparently some Christian school men and Roman. Catholic school men have still not learned their lesson, but are desirous to salvage what they can out of the lost cause. They want to retain whatever “benefits” they had, in the past, such as remedial education programs, driver education programs, shared time courses, etc. On the other hand, so/me public school officials are also striving to save some of these programs for the non-public schools. It seems that there are two reasons for this. For one thing, there seems to be a possibility that public schools might lose some federal aid on the ground of discrimination if private schools are denied the right to participate in some of these fringe programs. For another thing, especially in a city like Grand Rapids, where there is a rather large private school constituency, public school officials would like to curry favor with private school supporters, so that the latter will help to pass future proposals for more public school tax millage. 

But while parochiaid may not be completely buried, it is indeed dead in Michigan. And it is very doubtful whether, for some time to come, in the light of the popular vote, a majority of legislators can be induced to attempt a resurrection. 

Parochiaid is dead! 

Long live the Christian school! 

The reader will understand, I am sure, that we do not share the attitude of the enemies of Christian education with respect to parochiaid. There is no doubt about it that there were and are such enemies, who fondly hoped that the death of parochiaid would also mean the death of all non-public schools, including our Christian schools. Some have openly expressed this hope. And they had reasons to think that this hope might be realized. For did not some Christian school men—shame on them!—base their case in favor of parochiaid on the argument that their schools needed such aid, that they could not remain open without such government funds? 

But this animosity toward Christian schools, of course, we do not share. 

Nevertheless, we can only see the death of parochiaid—whatever may have been the motives and the reasons of the world’s proponents of “death to parochiaid”—we can only see this death as a real benefit to the genuinely Christian school. i.e., to the parental school devoted to covenantal education, education in the fear of Jehovah which is the beginning of knowledge. We see this as a benefit, in the first place, because we can only see parochiaid as principally wrong, as we have repeatedly argued in the past. We see it as a benefit, in the second place, because we can only see parochiaid as a grave threat to the whole idea and existence of Christian education: once parochiaid would become a reality, it would eventually mean the death of Christian education in any real sense. We see it as a benefit, in the third place, because it removes a grave temptation from our path. There is no question about it, from a financial point of view, that there is something attractive to many parents about the idea of getting back a share of those painfully paid tax dollars and of being relieved of some of the expenses of the education of our children. And when we get dollar signs in our eyes, it can become a severe temptation to forget about principles. So I am happy that this temptation is removed—for myself and for others. We see it as a benefit, in the fourth place, because it may serve to purge and to strengthen the Christian school movement. For if it be true that some Christian schools were so little a matter of real principle that they could not continue without state aid, this will now certainly become evident: they will die. And the Christian school movement is better off without that kind of schools and school supporters. The men of principle will now have to stand up and be counted! 

And so we say: long live the Christian school! That is, long live those schools whose parents are thoroughly devoted to the principle that it is a parental calling and privilege to train their children in the way of God’s covenant, in the fear of the Lord, and to prepare their covenant children to live their entire life out of the principle of regeneration, antithetically, to the glory of our God! 

Are there any lessons to be learned from this history? 

We think there are. 

In the first place, we ought to learn the lesson that the real line between Christian and public education is not a private/public line, but a light/darkness line. In all the propaganda in favor of parochiaid there have been those who were singing a siren-song of friendship and cooperation between Christian and public education forces. Now it has become plain that there is no real friendship for our Christian schools on the part of the world. This was more than a mere pocket-book issue, remember. It is frequently true that it takes a pocket-book issue, a money issue, to bring principles to light. But in the deepest sense, this was a principal issue. And the electorate demonstrated that their sympathies were by no means with the Christian school. If we have not learned this heretofore, or if we have forgotten it, let us learn it now. And let us learn to expect that the time will come when the world will not only refuse financial help to the Christian school, but will flatly forbid us to have our schools. Be prepared! Be not deceived! 

In the second place, if we have any Christian school principles in us, let us learn anew the lesson which Israel of old so frequently was taught in the hard school of experience and which is aptly expressed in the prophecy of Isaiah: “Woe to the rebellious children, saith the Lord, that take counsel, but not of me; and that cover with a covering, but not of my spirit, that they may add sin to sin: That walk to go down into Egypt, and have not asked at my mouth; to strengthen themselves in the strength of Pharaoh, and to trust in the shadow of Egypt! Therefore shall the strength of Pharaoh be your shame, and the trust in the shadow of Egypt your confusion.” (Isa. 30:1-3) Or again: “Woe to them that go down to Egypt for help; and stay on horses, and trust in chariots, because they are many; and in horsemen, because they are very strong; but they look not unto the Holy One of Israel, neither seek the Lord!” (Isa. 31:1) “For thus saith the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel; In returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength.” (Isa. 30:15) May that dreadful word never have to be added of us: “…and ye would not!”