Millions of taxpayer dollars in Maryland go to “church-exempt” schools (private schools run by churches) that get little to no government oversight, and a local news investigation revealed a multitude of problems at one school in particular. Reporter Chris Papst was tipped off by a social worker who realized students who supposedly graduated from New Spiritual Foundation Christian Academy didn’t seem to know “basic words.”
WBFF’s “Project Baltimore” noted that there are 534 church-exempt schools in Maryland, and when you see what’s happening in this one building, you have to wonder how widespread the problems are with the rest of these schools.
The school’s website suggests students obtain a quality education, and there are plenty of pictures of happy graduates, but the news team revealed a very different story when speaking with graduates. What’s more is that, before they began digging, state officials had no idea the depths of the problems.
It turns out church-exempt schools don’t get much oversight. In fact, the State Department of Education, which certifies them, according to its own records, has never even been to New Spiritual.
“If there is no one checking the credentials, the credibility, that’s disheartening, to say the least,” said Harrison.
If the state was checking, here’s what it might find. On one of the school’s websites, former students call it a “scam” and the diploma “fake”. One person says they got a lawyer because their “diploma was a phony”. Why? Because New Spiritual’s diploma is not accepted at local universities. Students can get into community colleges, but those are open access, meaning anyone can enroll.
We also looked into New Spiritual’s highly touted accreditation. It’s from the Faith-Based Christian Services of Maryland. When we asked [school founder Kirk] Bridgeforth about it, he told us, “We sat down and talked about what standards should be met for a Christian education.”
The CEO of Faith-Based is Tiffany Outerbridge who we learned is also a founding member of New Spiritual. Bridgeforth told us he did not believe that was a conflict of interest.
Accreditation is vital to a school, but we couldn’t find anything about Faith-Based. There’s no website, no social media and no business registration. It’s like it doesn’t exist. Bridgeforth told us Faith-Based is located in Baltimore, but it’s not. We finally tracked it down using an address on New Spiritual’s website, which led us to an apartment in Newport News, Virginia.
“There’s a thing in this country called separation of church and state. I think it applies here,” Bridgeforth told Project Baltimore.
It doesn’t. Not when taxpayer dollars are keeping this “school” afloat. It’s not truly accredited, students aren’t able to get into four-year colleges, and parents who enroll their students there are likely unaware of it.
Churches shouldn’t be providing fraudulent education services, period, much less on the taxpayers’ dime. It violates the spirit of secularization if not the law itself.
How long will it be before lawmakers hold “schools” like this accountable? And how many other church-exempt schools are guilty of this or worse? No school should be given funding to rip off students.
(Thanks to Brian for the link)