Where the NHCLC Stands on Public Education
Since the inception of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC), Rev. Samuel Rodriguez and the countless prominent Hispanic Evangelicals from around the nation have stood for the “Lamb’s Agenda” not only from behind their pulpits but also in America’s public spheres. Recently, the NHCLC refined its directives to encapsulate the arenas around which its voice has always been centered:
Life, Religious Liberty, and Biblical Justice.
The first question one might ask is, “where does education fit into these directives?” Fully aware of the problems facing America’s public education school system, it did not take long for me to arrive at an answer in this regard. The Faith and Education Coalition (FE Coalition) was founded by the NHCLC with the main intent of connecting evangelical pastors to issues of education equity facing our nation. In a nation where education is to be considered the great equalizer, study after study have shown that Blacks and Hispanics enrolled in k-12 public education continue to lag behind their White colleagues in academic achievement. For example, a recent study revealed that only 25% of Hispanics and 10% of Blacks met three or more ACT College Readiness Benchmarks compared to 50% of Whites. For a more gut-checking report, watch Robert M. Hauser’s lecture at the 2017 American Philosophical Society Autumn Meeting. Reports such as these demonstrate that the American public education school system is not a complete failure, but they do demonstrate that if we ever want to have more than just 29% of Americans expressing a “great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in public schools, we must find a way to address and close the achievement gap for Blacks, Hispanics, and the most marginalized communities in our nation.
With that said, we believe it is a matter of biblical justice to perpetually engage our voice in dialogue centered around school improvement. From the missional perspective of the NHCLC and FE Education, our primary task is to remind our schools of the imago dei inherent in each student they serve. This reality brings alongside it a list of demands that are to be perceived as neither Republican or Democrat, but Just. Public education should:
- Respect the God-given dignity and value of every child; “God created man in his own image, . . .” (Gen. 1:27) Whether a student has a unique physical or learning disability or comes from a family of a lower socioeconomic status, public schools should be willing to provide all students with a seat in the classroom and the opportunity and resources needed to learn and excel.
- Protect the right of parents to lead and guide their child’s education; (Deut. 6:4-9) We support the right of parents and guardians to decide what’s right and best for their child’s education and the right to timely and understandable school and student report cards in order that they might properly evaluate their child’s education.
- Demand high educational standards and equitable education opportunities for all children, including high standards of education comparable across states; “You shall do no injustice in judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor nor defer to the great, . . .” (Lev. 19:15) Regardless of a student’s zip code, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, or perceived learning capabilities, every student should be held to standards of education that will prepare him or her for college or a career upon high school graduation. Additionally, regardless of a child’s unique “starting point” or additional “obstacles” in the educational journey, we support the allocation of additional resources to provide support in helping all students reach those high standards.
- Respect the local districts’ and states’ rights to determine educational standards, methods and curricular choices; “Where there is no vision, …” (Prov. 29:18) Each state and locality is responsible for electing and appointing educational leaders who have a compelling vision for public education in their region, one that honors the people they were chosen to represent and also considers the career demands of the time and those projected to come. Additionally, the people are responsible for being engaged community stakeholders and for holding their officials accountable for implementing approved education policies.
- Ensure fairness to taxpayers; “Render to all what is due them . . .” (Rom.13:5-7) We urge our nation’s leaders to work together with community stakeholders to honor our nation’s taxpayers and implement education policies that support the success of all students through high standards and educational equity. Likewise, we stand wary of policies which move public funds away from public schools, where our most vulnerable students attend for access to educational opportunities.
In essence, the NHCLC and FE Coalition are committed to seeing all students in America’s public education school system succeed as a matter of biblical justice. There need not be any ulterior motive or eternal ramifications tied to this end, but educational success should be the end in itself for Hispanic, Black, White, Asian and all students enrolled in public education.
The Rev. Girien Salazar
Director, Faith and Education Coalition