A church operated a private school for children in grades K-12. The church opened the school in 1986 as part of its ministry. The school ceased operations for a four-year period in the 1990’s, but was reopened and has an enrollment of 58 full time students. In addition, the church uses the school building to minister to the religious and instructional needs of some 300 children each week on a part-time basis. All of the school’s teachers hold at least a B.A. degree, but none is certified as a K-12 teacher by the state. The school is not accredited by the state or any other accrediting institution. However, its graduates have been accepted by various colleges without question. Students who have transferred to public schools in the area have had their credits accepted. The church applied for a property tax exemption for its school for the 1999 assessment year. A tax assessor ruled that the school was not entitled to exemption because it was not accredited by the state. A court reversed this decision and ruled that the school property was exempt. The court noted that state law exempts “property owned or used for any nonprofit school or college in this state for educational purposes.” The court concluded, “A non-profit school is eligible for the exemption if it offers an educational program of a general academic nature and its students’ credentials are accepted without question or examination by Washington’s public schools. It is not necessary that the school or its teachers be accredited. The school … although integrated with a religious-based curriculum, is nevertheless clearly an educational program of a general academic nature.” Faith Baptist Church v. State of Washington, Bd. of Tax Appeals Dec. 55710 (2001).
This content originally appeared in Church Treasurer Alert, June 2001.