CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (July 31, 2019) — Entering its 98th year, local non-profit Bible in the Schools presented Hamilton County Schools and two participating charter schools with a collective community gift of over $1.5 million as reimbursement for the complete cost of the 2018-2019 county-wide public school Bible History elective course program.
Presenting the gift to Superintendent Dr. Bryan Johnson were Dr. Gary Phillips, vice chairman of the board of directors of Bible in the Schools, Mike Harrell, member of the board, and Ms. Cathy Scott, the organization’s president.
“We are a district invested in holistically preparing students for a successful future,” said Dr. Johnson. “Biblical literacy is one avenue for developing critical thinking, literacy, and cultural awareness for the students participating in this elective program. This gift—which was the largest philanthropic gift received by Hamilton County public schools during the 2018-2019 school year through community partnerships — empowered Hamilton County Schools to hire 23 qualified and certified Bible History teachers, including a full-time Bible History Program Coordinator, for this past academic year.”
Enrollment data from 25 participating Hamilton County public schools reported 4,536 public school students in grades 6-12 completed Bible History elective courses during the 2018-2019 academic year — a record enrollment and a 12 percent increase over the previous academic year.
Board Chairman Chris Maclellan said, “Bible in the Schools’ commitment to providing Hamilton County Schools with the free gift of Bible History elective courses has remained strong for nearly 100 years. It is our privilege to deliver this gift that represents thousands of generous people who understand the importance of exposing young people to the Bible. Every year, there is evidence that Bible History provides a unique benefit to public school students, at no cost to taxpayers, and has a lasting impact on students’ lives. We look forward to having 26 participating schools for 2019-2020, as Orchard Knob Middle School adds a new Bible History program for this coming academic year. Our board is greatly encouraged to have seen county-wide student access to Bible History increase from 67% to 85% in the past 36 months. Currently, courses are available as electives to the vast majority of all public middle and high school students in Hamilton County, and our hope is to see every middle and high school student have the opportunity to study Bible History if they so choose.”
Mrs. Scott said, “Bible in the Schools is honored to be the conduit through which the community makes this elective possible for youth in our public schools. We believe the Bible is essential to a well-rounded education and to the overall character development of youth. While Bible History is a robust academic subject, the byproduct of these courses reaches beyond mere academic gains as students are exposed to the hope, values, and life lessons found in the Bible, many of which are universally relevant today. Students often report that the Bible provides a perspective that encourages them to make healthier choices, and to give more thought to their actions, particularly related to conduct, relationships, and self-care. It is with deep honor that we present this 2019 Community Gift that we trust will continue to enrich public school youth with the hope, wisdom, and knowledge of what is still the world’s most influential book.”
Bible History courses will expand to 26 schools this fall and will be taught by 24 highly credentialed teachers, led by a full-time Bible History Program Coordinator, all of whom are employed by the school system and are fully funded through charitable donations to Bible in the Schools. In addition to gifting teacher salaries and benefits, Bible in the Schools fully funds all taxes, costs of regular teacher professional development and legal training, classroom materials, and Bible textbooks for the courses.
Bible History classes follow guidelines established by a 1980 federal court ruling, which affirmed teaching of Bible History for-credit electives in Hamilton County’s public middle and high schools as constitutionally permissible, with the Bible to be used as the textbook. The Hamilton County Bible History curricular framework is court approved and aligns to the Tennessee Department of Education’s state academic standards.
Officials said, "Bible History elective classes in the public schools are an opportunity for students to have a viewpoint neutral, foundational study – at no cost to taxpayers – of one of the cornerstone texts of world history, which helps students become culturally literate and better equipped to thrive and contribute to a global world."