Friday, October 29, 2010


Letter from the National Council of Churches to the President and Congress

I write today to share a pastoral letter adopted on May 18 by the 69 member Governing Board of the National Council of Churches, and sent yesterday to the President and Congress. 
The National Council of Churches is a community of 36 Christian communions with a combined membership of 45 million persons in more than 100,000 congregations across the U.S.   The members of the NCC’s Governing Board are listed at the end of the letter. 
The pastoral letter speaks particularly to issues in Race to the Top:
  • the role of public education, “publicly funded, universally available, and accountable to the public”;
  • democratic operation of public schools as the best way to ensure that families can secure the services to which their children have a right;
  • concerns about particular punishments for schools that cannot quickly raise achievement including: charterization; breaking up large high schools and co-locating smaller schools together in big buildings; firing teachers and principals under the “turnaround model”; needs of ELL and special needs children when charters do not provide services; and the danger of expecting all parents and children to be active choosers;
  • danger of discussing what ought to be a human endeavor of caring in the language of business (“As people of faith we do not view our children as products to be tested and managed but instead as unique human beings, created in the image of God, to be nurtured and educated.”);
  • the tragedy that springs from trashing public school teachers… “an ugly and unfortunate development in federal policy.”
The letter rejects the Administration’s emphasis on incentive competition and affirms the Title I formula program: “How will we protect the educational opportunities of children in states and districts that are the losers?  While the Title I formula program has been too small to make up for the impact of family poverty and the 3:1 inequality of school funding among the school districts in most states, it remains the federal government’s primary tool for distributing funds by formula according to need, for the purpose of expanding opportunity for poor children.”
The letter also addresses what is, for the church, the primary concern that must be addressed when the Elementary and Secondary Act is reauthorized:  “As you craft the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, we call on you to be faithful to the law’s original purpose: expanding educational opportunity…. We ask you to allocate federal resources for equity and insistently press states to close opportunity gaps. It is time to guarantee for all children in the United States a comparable opportunity to learn…”
The letter is attached and also posted on the website of the National Council of Churches:
This letter originated in the Council’s Committee on Public Education and Literacy.  As chair of that committee, I would be delighted to address any questions or concerns.
Ms. Jan Resseger
Minister for Public Education and Witness
Justice and Witness Ministries
700 Prospect, Cleveland , Ohio 44115
216-736-3711 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              216-736-3711      end_of_the_skype_highlighting

"That all citizens will be given an equal start through a sound education is one of the most basic, promised rights of our democracy.  Our chronic refusal as a nation to guarantee that right for all children.... is rooted in a kind of moral blindness, or at least a failure of moral imagination....  It is a failure which threatens our future as a nation of citizens called to a common purpose... tied to one another by a common bond."   —Senator Paul Wellstone, March 31, 2000

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