Of the 120 Adventist schools within the Northwest, fully 40 percent are designated as remote and necessary. These small schools receive additional funding from the North Pacific Union Conference according to a process set in motion more than three decades ago by a visionary NPUC leader.
T.W. Walter, NPUC education director from 1969–1981, realized many smaller churches were struggling to keep their local Adventist schools afloat. In cooperation with local conference leaders, he designed a plan to help these remote and necessary schools remain viable. Walter's successor, Gilbert Plubell, and other leaders since have adapted and carried forward this process —unique to the Northwest.
A remote and necessary institution is a one- or two-teacher school at least 30 miles from an existing sister school. It must also serve a constituency not reasonably served by another Adventist school.
Remote and necessary funds are voted each year by the NPUC board of education based on the previous year's tithe. The NPUC office of education determines how much each school is entitled to with a complex formula including local church tithe, student-teacher ratios and the percentage of the local church budget earmarked for the school. These funds are then sent each year to the local conference to directly benefit these schools.
In 2009, in addition to the direct annual assistance to Northwest academies, the NPUC spent more than 32 percent of its education K–12 budget for these remote and necessary school funds, a total of more than $550,000.
These funds are the difference between life or death for many small, rural Adventist schools. In Montana, every currently operating Adventist school is designated as remote and necessary. Archie Harris, Montana Conference education director says, "Our schools average about $745 per month in remote and necessary funding. That's like having three additional paying students in school. It's a make it or break it proposition — at least half of our schools would be gone without this support through the NPUC."
"In these increasingly challenging economic times, the NPUC is committed to continue this vision for remote and necessary schools," says Lanny Hurlbert, vice president for education. It's a miracle that continues to reap dividends in schools and congregations around the Northwest. You'll find three unique examples, testimonies if you will, in the pages ahead.