By Rev. Charles Foster Johnson, Executive Director, Pastors for Texas Children

For the Texas Education Grantmakers Advocacy Consortium, TEGAC, August 2014

Pastors for Texas Children is privileged to join the Texas Education Grantmakers Advocacy Consortium in advancing Pre-Kindergarten public educational instruction in Texas and promoting legislation in the upcoming legislative session to ensure that comprehensive pre-K programs are made available to all the families of Texas.

From a theological and religious standpoint, education for all people is the basic will of God. Every faith tradition has understood education as central to humanity’s charge to be good, responsible stewards of creation. The Judeo-Christian heritage has always understood education to be central to its mission. It is necessary to fulfill God’s basic command expressed so memorably in first chapter of The Book of Genesis to “be fruitful and multiply, replenish the earth and subdue it.”

The colorful story continues in the second chapter of Genesis, quite specifically underscoring education as a God-given right and responsibility. After God places the human in a garden of plenty and commands him to eat, God then brings all the animals to the human to see what the human would name them. This naming impulse and process is precisely what constitutes education. It is a core component of human existence.

Furthermore, the one title that Jesus seemed to embrace throughout his mission was “Rabbi” which means “teacher.”

As such, ministers of the church have historically supported public education as a foundational institution of a representative democracy. A literate and educated electorate is essential to the rule of the people that advances God’s justice.

Public education is a key component of the common good and the social contract. It ensures the widespread distribution our economic wealth, and its institutions are at the center of our local economies.

We believe public education is a right-- not a privilege. It should be accessible and available to all children. Public policy should support, not deplete, it. It is an inviolable public trust, and is explicitly mandated in the Texas Constitution.

This is why PTC advocates for the full and adequate funding of public education for all children regardless of race, economic status, religion, gender, orientation, or background.

This is why PTC affirms the holy calling of teaching as a noble vocation and stands for the restoration of teaching as the venerated profession it should be.

And this is why PTC stands solidly behind policy initiatives that extend pre-Kindergarten educational programs to all our children. Studies consistently show that the earlier a child is enrolled in formal educational instruction, the higher the academic performance and achievement will be throughout the child’s life.

When we invest in public education, we are investing in the future of 5 million Texas schoolchildren. That basic investment is the key to a child’s future economic mobility, the financial stability of Texas families, and the state’s long-term economic prosperity. Slightly more than 60 percent (over 3 million of our 5 million Texas public school students) are now identified as “economically disadvantaged.” Because family income plays a pivotal role in educational success, the increase in low-income Texas students underscores the importance of providing quality education at an earlier age. Pastors are in a good position to know the direct correlation between education achievement and economic viability.

Therefore, PTC will host meetings throughout the state to connect pastors, faith-leaders and education leaders around Pre-K and general public education issues. We will provide regular news and updates to members regarding emerging opportunities to promote Pre-K programs throughout the state. And we will host regular educational meetings involving key state legislators, pastors, church leaders, educators and other stakeholders to promote and advance Pre-K and general public education.

Education is a cornerstone of God’s justice and provision for all people. It should be provided for the “least of these”—our earlier age children—in every neighborhood and community throughout our great state.