Why should public, secular administrators determine the standards for a private, religious school?

Should nebraska require teachers in a Christian school to be certified? Or, for that matter, should any state?

Rev. Everett Sileven’s in-again-out-again jail protest may obscure the basic issue for a lot of Christians.

Let me tell you about our experience at Delaware County Christian School in suburban Philadelphia, about 25 years ago.

The state board of education demanded the right to certify our teachers. We objected and sent representatives, including the principal (Roy W. Lowrie, Jr., now president of the Association of Christian Schools International), to the state capital to explain our objection.

In brief, this was the background: We had recently hired Lucy Johnson, M.A., as our first-grade teacher. Miss Johnson came from the Pierre Du Pont School in Wilmington, Delaware; she was unusually gifted and trained; and she came to us at less than half the salary she had been receiving at this tax-supported public school.

If the Pennsylvania state department of education had had its way, Miss Johnson would have had to take prescribed courses in a state college before she would have qualified for certification. It seemed ridiculous to require a teacher with such qualifications to take a course in Pennsylvania state history before she could teach in a Christian—or any other private—school.

The same is true of graduates of out-of-state colleges, thoroughly trained in elementary or secondary education. Should the Wheaton College graduates we employed have to meet Pennsylvania’s public school requirements for certification before they could teach in our Christian school?

There’s the basic issue: Who sets the standards for teaching in a private religious school, the board of trustees or the state board of education? And should those standards be set to fulfill the private school’s purpose or the public schools’? Bible is a required subject in most Christian schools. Are not Philadelphia College of Bible’s required Bible courses more relevant to qualification as a teacher than a course in Pennsylvania state history?

And there’s the more serious possibility inherent to giving in on certification. Next may come state determination of the curriculum, textbooks, and school policies.

Certification is the camel’s nose in the tent. We can never forget that in these years of public school attrition (caused by the drying up of tax sources and the “baby-bust”), Christian schools are growing. This growth has doubtless slowed, largely because of the economy, but it still represents a threat to public education and its tremendous bureaucracy.

Any school, public or private, should fulfill standards of safety, health, and basic instruction (although the latter is probably better shown by results of achievement, S.A.T., and similar tests than by fulfilling state requirements).

But teachers and curriculum? To give the state this right is like letting Goliath choose his opponent and his opponent’s weapon.

The state withdrew its demand for public school accreditation of our teachers. And our school went on to become a standard of educational as well as Christian excellence.

JOSEPH BAYLYDr. Bayly is president of the David C. Cook Company of Elgin, Illinois. An author, his recent books include Winter-flight (Word, 1981).

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