“Build a Church, then Build a School.” Chief among the instructions for John Wesley’s itinerant ministers was this directive about education. Methodists are not the only faith group to grasp the importance of education for the flourishing of God’s people. Nearly all unite an emphasis on faith formation with a call for quality education. This remains true and is why people of faith should care about May 16, 2018, Public Education Advocacy Day at the NC General Assembly.
Education nearly always traces its roots back to faith communities, but in this country Thomas Jefferson had a new idea, proposing tax supported general education for all citizens (1779). Ten years later, the first public college was founded in North Carolina—you may have heard of it—and by the end of the 19th century, “grammar” schools peppered our landscape. A robust public education system has been the engine for our democracy, unrivaled in the free world. If public schools wane, look for freedom to follow close behind.
Around 90% of our state’s students attend public education schools. Public education is the school of choice and all of us need to advocate for its prospering even if we are among the 10% who do not choose it. Nine out of ten of our future neighbors, bosses, employees, doctors, ministers, and teachers are attending public schools. Our communities thrive when our citizens are well-educated: we must support public education.
By now, most of us know the numbers, numbers which demonstrate that while we were once competitive, North Carolina has fallen to the bottom. For example, adjusted for inflation, spending has fallen 8% from the pre-recession spending in 2008, while the state’s population is growing at an average 280 people each day, including a massive influx of school age children. More people,less money—makes no sense. Salaries, supplies, and structures echo the same budget cutting theme. More details are here.
The narrative about the “problems” in our schools needs to change to a focus on funding for our schools. We need to admit that diverting money to opportunity scholarships and charter schools while claiming to increase overall funding is a false narrative. We need to recognize that raising teacher salaries while their healthcare costs soar is a false narrative. We need to understand that depriving our public education system of essential resources and then claiming there is a crisis is a false narrative.
We call on people of faith to join the professionals who staff our sacred institution in calling for an end to this false narrative. On May 16th, teachers and educational professional are saying with one clear voice, it is time to fund fully our schools and insure the engine of democracy remains viable in our communities.
Click here to learn what you can do to help build up our public education schools. It’s the faithful thing to do.