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Posted at 11:43 AM ET, 09/11/2009

A Private School Parent's Nightmare

By Valerie Strauss

This is a parent’s school nightmare:

You decide that your local public school is not what you want for your child, and you find the money to pay tuition at a private religious school.

One morning when you drop your child off for class, you learn that the school is in so much financial trouble that it is soon to be auctioned off to the highest bidder. Nobody had told you earlier that the school was in any financial difficulty.

This is what happened to the parents of 150 students at the Progressive Christian Academy in Temple Hills, Md., where annual tuition starts at starts at $5,895. The school and adjoining Baptist church are in foreclosure and scheduled to be auctioned on Sept. 22.

It turns out that the foreclosure notice was filed in April, according to court records. Two federal tax liens totaling $619,761 were levied against Massey on Aug. 27, records show. The school never told the parents.

Pastor Don deJuan Massey, the founder and operator of the school and church, said this week that the school would not be sold because God would intervene.

A human being should have intervened before things got to this stage.

Private schools, religious and non-religious, have under state laws great discretion over how they operate and what they teach. The government doesn’t get involved. It shouldn't. But is it too much to ask of private and parochial schools that, at the very least, they tell parents when tax liens are levied against them?

This isn’t the first time a school in the Washington area has been thrown into financial chaos during the school year.

In June 2007 Rock Creek International School, known for its dual-language immersion programs, closed after several months in which parents struggled to keep the doors open. Parents said they only learned in January 2007 that the school faced closure.

The founder and operator of the school had been forced to resign two years earlier, but then went on to open another private school in the District, which has since been forced to close.

Parents have a right to know what financial shape their schools are in. States and the D.C. government can make sure that happens.

Progressive Christian Academy parents: Please email with more information and their thoughts about the scheduled auction.

By Valerie Strauss  | September 11, 2009; 11:43 AM ET
Categories:  Private Schools  | Tags:  Progressive Christian Academy, parochial schools, private schools  
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Nearly the same happened to Towson Catholic High School.
The parents and families learned in July, but by that time most Catholic high schools have wait lists.

Posted by: edlharris | September 12, 2009 5:56 PM | Report abuse

Seems the Archdiocese would keep tabs on the Catholic schools.

Posted by: Bitter_Bill | September 13, 2009 10:27 AM | Report abuse

The Baltimore Archdiocese DOES keep track of Catholic schools and arranged for the students to transfer to other Catholic High Schools. I would assume some transferred to their neighborhood public high school (which have a legal obligation to take the students at any time. ) In light of the recession, Towson Catholic failed to enroll enough students to cover costs. When it became clear the school would not reach it enrollment requirements, the local parish (yes, a parish sponsored that high school) had no choice but to close the school. Interested readers can track the story at the Diocese of Baltimore web site, along with the local Catholic paper. Folks should really try to do a little research before posting false and misleading statements. All Catholic schools save the tax-payer a ton of money and to the extent Catholic parents choose not to use them, either taxes rise or public schools end up with larger classes. These stories are not related at all.

Posted by: mbc7 | September 13, 2009 7:18 PM | Report abuse

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