What do the numbers sixty-two and 3.5 billion mean to you?
A recent Oxfam report said that the wealth of the poorest fifty per cent of the population dropped by forty-one per cent between 2010 and 2015, despite an increase in the global population of four hundred million. In the same period, the wealth of the richest sixty-two people increased by five hundred billion dollars (£350bn) to 1.76 trillion dollars. The report published in the Guardian newspaper goes on to point out that this means that the sixty-two richest people in the world have more wealth than the poorest 3,500,000,000 people.
Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed. Psalm 82:3
Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy. Proverbs 31:9
I shared that piece of news with a group recently and then observed how they reacted this information. There was some surprise and obvious concern about the growing gap between the rich and poor. One particularly astute participant chipped in with a comment about the level of responsibility that rested on the sixty-two.
‘When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and for the foreigner residing among you. I am the Lord your God.’” Leviticus 23:22
Lest we think that this issue is just an intellectual or philosophical issue for us, the same issue (although admittedly not on the same scale) gets discussed in many of our schools. In finance committee meetings and board rooms, people who are committed to the cause of Christian education wrestle with the issue of affordability for all. They are aware that in each of our communities the gap is growing between those who can afford the cost of tuition and those for whom this is increasingly difficult. This statistic is verified in our survey results which show that across the province there is a growing income gap in our school communities.
“You levy a straw tax on the poor and impose a tax on their grain. Therefore, though you have built stone mansions, you will not live in them; though you have planted lush vineyards, you will not drink their wine.” Amos 5:11
And so our Board members wrestle with the reality of how best to keep accessibility to our schools possible for the growing diversity of income ranges. Increasingly Boards are realizing that our traditional structure of using fundraising and donations to lower tuition for all families is not helpful in our current financial climate. Many of our families are able to pay the full cost of education and are willing to do so. In fact, many families who are not familiar with the model are surprised to hear that they are not paying the full cost. For the families who require assistance, the limited reduction simply is nowhere close to sufficient.
If we are to truly welcome the poor we must revisit the traditional way in which we set tuition rates. Bursaries or tuition assistance practices must become increasingly generous.
If anyone is poor among your fellow Israelites in any of the towns of the land the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward them. Deuteronomy 15:7.
As you look to the budgeting issues of the next school year, and as you also consider sustainable financial planning into the future, I implore you to actively include planning as to how we can include those for whom tuition rates are simply prohibitive.
As it is written: “They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor; their righteousness endures forever.” 2 Corinthians 9:9
“All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I had been eager to do all along.” Galations 2:10