Christian schools and Christian community

Emma Stolzfus–Staff Writer

Each morning, Professor Jeff Taylor’s two children hop on the same bus from Sioux Center to their respective Christian schools in Orange City.

In a small conservative town of nineteen churches and a Christian college, is it necessary to require employees to send their children to Christian schools?

Dordt College believes so.

A small school in rural Northwest Iowa, Dordt College holds itself to the beliefs of the Christian Reformed Church (CRC).

Dordt’s staff handbook is a 67-page document detailing the “policies and practices” of the school for its employees.

According to section 8.4 of the handbook, full-time staff of the college are required to “demonstrate their commitment to the mission of Dordt College by: enrolling their children, when appropriate, in Christian day school.” It goes on to allow that staff may  homeschool their children, but that they would then not be eligible for the college’s need-based scholarships awarded on a sliding scale by income.

Later the same section the handbook requires staff to be active in a Reformed congregation approved by Dordt.

Sue Droog, Executive Manager of Human Resources at Dordt, said that the administration is very upfront throughout the hiring process about Dordt’s expectations.

Taylor, the political science professor at Dordt College, says there are both pros and cons to the school’s requirement.

His children, a ninth grader at Unity Christian and a fourth grader at Orange Cirty Christian, both make the eleven-mile drive from Sioux Center to Orange City each day. There, they are able to learn from teachers who have a curriculum open about faith and can pray freely in classrooms, which is a benefit according to Taylor.

While Dordt is not run by the CRC itself, they firmly associate themselves with its beliefs and those put forth in the Canons of Dordt.

The CRC emphasizes the placement of Christian schools and encourages parents to educate their children in the Reformed faith, as established in article 71 of the CRC’s booklet The Church Order and Its Supplements.

The Canons of Dordt also promote educating the next generation on a strong foundation of Christian theology.

Howard Wilson–Dordt’s Vice President and Chief Administration Officer–calls the need for Christian education Dordt’s heritage as part of a community built by Dutch Reformed settlers from Pella, Iowa.

“It’s part of our DNA,” he said.

Dordt College’s own education is heavily infused with a Reformed theology. It’s website claims the college’s founding vision is to ensure all aspects of the college “shall be permeated with the spirit and teaching of Christianity.”

Taylor said that a possible negative aspect of requiring staff to send their kids to Christian schools would be a lack of cultural and ethnic diversity.

According to the 2010 census, 13.1% of Sioux Center’s population in Hispanic or Latino.

According to Public School Review and Private School Reciew, the Sioux Center Community School district has a minority enrollment of 36% compared to the state average for public schools of 22%. Sioux Center Christian on the other hand has a minority enrollment of 7%, compared to a state average of 13% for private schools.

Droog said she sends her kids to Christian schools in order to equip them to “engage the good, the bad, and the ugly and do it well whle glorifying God.”

Besides the ability to teach from a Christian worldview, private schools also come with a price-tag. The average tuition cost for private schools in Iowa is $3,729 for elementary and $7,279 for high schools according to the Private School Review.

“Some argue the cost is a barrier,” said Wilson on the cost of private Christian schools, “but we do our best.”

Dordt provides financial aid on a sliding scale based on income for staff sending their children to Christian schools. Aid is not offered for staff choosing to homeschool as an alternative.

Before taking his job at Dordt College, Taylor sent his eldest child to a public school. A graduate of public education himself, Taylor noted that in the absence of a requirement, some faculty might be inclined to send their kids to the local public school, citing the quility of Iowa public schools and strong Christian community.

“It’s like anything else,” Taylor said, “there are some advantages and some disadvantages.”

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