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Public school cutbacks may aid private school enrollment

By Sarah L. Smith
Coastal Observer

The economy could be to blame for empty seats in one local private school next fall.

Rick Kauffman, Pawleys Island Christian Academy’s principal, said 127 students attend the academy this year, but parents are saying they don’t think they can afford to send their children back next year. The economy and its affect on their wallets, they say, is to blame.

“I’ve encouraged them to speak with me so their children can continue here until we can get over this obstacle and the economy improves,” Kauffman said.

Tuition ranges from $210 to $400 per month depending on grade level and the number of students families enroll. Kauffman said money from the school’s annual fund-raiser, Pops and Auction, goes to help subsidize tuition costs, but even those funds will not help families as much next year.

“Normally, we raise between $40,000 to $45,000, and this year we raised $25,000,” he said.

Lowcountry Day School, like any organization, feels the effects of a recession, said superintendant Peter Mitchell. However, he thinks Lowcountry’s enrollment will increase next year. The school’s director of admissions, Ginny Deeter, said she expects attendance to grow from 185 to 205.

The school’s recent Diamonds and Dice fund-raiser provided $60,000 for scholarships compared to the $58,000 raised last year.

“That’s important because many of our families are feeling the pinch,” she said.

Despite the “pinch,” Mitchell said almost all Lowcountry Day families will return to school next year. Public school cutbacks, according to Mitchell, also brought families to the private school. They like the curriculum, arts and sports programs, he said.

Mitchell said Lowcountry’s strategic plan is also keeping it focused during tougher economic times. The plan outlines the school’s direction and identifies its niche and strengths, and he believes that it shows donors and parents that they are making a good investment.

“It has helped us with our parents and them being pleased with what the school is doing,” Mitchell said.

A bill in the legislature, the Educational Opportunity Act, could also bring more students to private schools. If passed, the bill would give parents tax credits, public money ranging between $1,000 to $4,800, to send their children to private or religious schools. Tax credits for families who want to home school their children could also be made available.

“I would think that would open the doors for more children, if not it would ease the pocketbooks,” Kauffman said.

However, Mitchell and Kauffman don’t think the bill will draw more students to their schools this fall, but if it passes, they believe they might see more students in the future.

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