Prayer for educators offered at Longview ISD convocation

August 18, 2017 – by Rev. Evan M. Dolive, M.Div. – First Christian Church, Longview, Texas

You O God are the author and creator of all life, the ruler of the universe, the giver of all blessings, the sustainer of our souls. You are the beginning and the end, the light that shines in the darkness to show us a new path to take, the source of our hope in times of trail, the source of joy in times of jubilation.

As we begin this new school year remind us why we have chosen to be educators, why we have chosen this profession. Remind us of our desire to share knowledge; restore in us the feeling of joy in seeing a child understand a difficult concept for the first time. Remind us of the students whose lives have been changed because time was taken, effort was given and failure was not an option. This school year may we have the excitement and the wonder of a Kindergartener. May we face this new year with all of its challenges with a strong resolve to make Longview ISD a beacon of education in East Texas.

Remove our doubts in our abilities to make a difference, remove our cynicism that comes from empty promises and misplaced priorities, remove our discouragement with burdens that are unnecessarily placed upon us.

Gracious God, the call to educate is a mighty and monumental task.  We know that it cannot be accomplished without your guidance and Spirit moving and working through us.

Restore our courage to act, to stand up for a struggling student and those who are often forgotten. Renew our spirits that we may see the world with a rejuvenated sense of purpose and self.

May our resolve be more than empty promises but an openness to change our minds and hearts. This in turn will allow us to have a more gracious, loving and spirit filled interaction with students, parents, colleagues and administrators.

O God the challenges that lie before us are not Republican or Democratic issues; they are not Lobo, Pirate, Panther, Bobcat or Eagle issues rather they are moral issues that speak to the way that your followers understand you, your teachings, your commands and the call upon their lives.

We know that when we are united together in the bettering of other’s education it will make Longview stronger, it will make Texas stronger, it will make the United States stronger, it will make the world stronger.

May we find courage, hope, strength and guidance to complete the tasks that lay ahead. Grant this for the sake of your righteous name.  Give success to the work of our hands. Amen.

Pastor: Texas Senate doesn’t support public education

By Jimmy Isaac  – Longview News-Journal
Aug. 18, 2017 at 12:26 a.m.

1A politician can’t tell a teacher how much he loves him or her without giving that classroom the money it needs to teach its children, a Fort Worth pastor said Thursday.

Charles Foster Johnson’s words about state senators and and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick were just as deliberate.

“We must elect a different Texas Senate in 2018. We must elect a Senate that believes in public education as a foundation of our social and civil order,” Johnson said while speaking with more than 30 parents, school superintendents, trustees, city leaders and teachers at Pine Tree Independent School District.

“The Texas Senate does not believe in public education for all Texas children,” he said. “The Texas House does.”

Johnson is executive director of Pastors for Texas Children, a statewide advocacy group. Several East Texans concerned about public education invited Johnson to speak.

“I’m here to listen to a viewpoint that supports teachers and supports public education,” said Pine Tree Superintendent T.J. Farler.

Over just more than a decade, the state’s share of funding education has plummeted from more than 60 percent to below 38 percent, she said.

Pine Tree school trustee Jim Cerrato said teachers are overwhelmed with mandates and other requirements not directly tied to classroom teaching. Coupled with dwindling state aid and salaries that lag other states, Texas is deep into a teacher shortage.

“I wish our state legislators would spend more time talking and listening to people who are actually in the trenches at this level and less time listening to whoever is telling them what they’re supposed to be doing,” Cerrato said, “because this has really not been a very productive session, and I don’t believe they’ve spent any time at all back here with the folks that are trying to fight these battles.”

Farler clarified that state Rep. Jay Dean, R-Longview, spent many hours, visits and phone calls communicating with East Texas superintendents about public education issues, but, “Our Senate side, not a word.”

Patrick and other state legislators have no intention of adequately funding public education as they try to make school vouchers a more appealing option, Johnson said.

He mentioned House Bill 21 among his evidence. The House proposed at least $1.8 billion in additional funding for public schools, but it passed the Senate with only about $563 million — much of it for retired teacher health benefits.

Gov. Greg Abbott is expected to sign the bill.

“The Texas Senate’s original budget was this,” Johnson said, making an “O” with his right hand. “Zero. And ultimately, fast forward to the end of the special session. Basically the Senate said if you’re not going to give us vouchers, we’re not going to give you funding. In other words, we’re going to starve your schools until you cave in and let us privatize them. Let us make money off your children. Let our donors — out-of-state donors — make money off your Longview kids, and the House said no, and that’s the stalemate.”

Johnson said Patrick and Abbott “are wrong.”

“We already have school choice. Parents choose their neighborhood schools, help those schools, wrap their arms of love and care and involvement around those schools,” he said. “The House and Pastors for Texas Children are never, ever going to agree to any plan that diverts that public money to underwrite the private education of affluent kids. We will never agree to that.”

Cerrato said it will take more people outside the political spectrum — including faith-based, community-focused or public education advocates — to bend lawmakers’ ears.

Added Farler, “The fact that somebody is willing to have that conversation with us, other parents and community members is exciting to me.”

Statement from Rev. Charles F. Johnson: End of Special Session

August 15, 2017

As the special legislative session closes, we express our deep gratitude for the extraordinary leadership of Speaker Joe Straus, Chairman Dan Huberty, and the House of Representatives to advance fair and just policy for our 5.5 million schoolchildren.

Because of the intransigence of the Texas Senate toward public education, the House was not able to secure significant additional funding for our neighborhood schools in critical need. But, they did successfully and steadfastly hold the line against private school vouchers – the unjust policy of underwriting private education with public tax dollars.

The failed leadership we presently have in the Texas Senate with regard to our children’s constitutionally protected public education is unacceptable.

This special session has been a circus of stubborn wrangling and procedural manipulation. What we have just been through for the past 30 days is beneath the dignity of every respectable Texan. For our elected officials to treat teachers as threats rather than heroes is an astonishing affront to our civil society.

Teachers are now awake to the concerted attack on their profession and our neighborhood schools. Pastors and community leaders are joining them in defending public education as the foundation of our social order.

Our only recourse now is to focus our efforts in laser fashion toward electing a legislature in 2018 that believes in public education for all Texas children– a legislature our children deserve.

We will get through this strange and difficult season and, by God’s grace, find “the better angels of our nature,” as President Lincoln so memorably put it.

Thank you all for your tremendous advocacy on behalf of our children. We honor you, appreciate you, and hold you, our governor, lieutenant governor and all 181 legislators in our ongoing prayers.

How Gov. Abbott’s voucher plan hurts disabled kids

HOUSTON CHRONICLE – Kristin Tassin – July 17, 2017

As the Texas Legislature gears up for a special session next week, Gov. Abbott made it clear he wants lawmakers to pass vouchers for children with disabilities. The theory is that by providing public funding for a private education, vouchers will provide parents a “choice” in how to best educate their child.

But will parents of children with disabilities really have the choice they want?

The governor, lieutenant governor and others appear to believe that private education is better than public education for these children; thus, the state should divert taxpayer dollars to pay for private education. But is this really what parents want for their children or what children with disabilities want for themselves? Can private entities really provide students with disabilities a better education?

My experience says no, and so does research. As a mother of a 17-year-old with a disability, I have advocated for children with disabilities and their families for more than 14 years. Students with disabilities perform better academically, socially, emotionally and cognitively when educated in classrooms with their typical peers and with appropriate supports. I’ve witnessed firsthand that most students with disabilities and their parents want an education in community schools with neighborhood peers.

Read the entire article here…

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick proposes millions for teacher bonuses and retirement

TEXAS TRIBUNE – July 13, 2017

With less than a week before the start of a special session of the Texas Legislature, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick laid out a proposal Thursday to give teachers bonuses and increase their retirement benefits, with plans to pay for both long-term using money from the Texas lottery.

Patrick called a press conference to roll out his own priorities for the next 30 days and tear down the House’s plan for revamping a faulty school funding system as a “Ponzi scheme.”

Patrick’s plan, in part, would provide $600 to $1,000 bonuses to long-term and retired teachers, inject $200 million into the Teacher Retirement System, give $150 million to struggling small, rural districts, and provide $60 million for new facilities for fast-growth school districts and charter schools.

Over the next two years, Patrick said, $700 million to pay for the plan would come from a deferral of funds to managed care organizations. Over the long-term, $700 million would be directly allocated from the Texas Lottery if voters approved an amendment to the Texas Constitution to ensure that transfer of funds continues indefinitely.

Currently, about $1.3 billion annually, or 27 percent of lottery funds, goes to public schools. Patrick is currently proposing taking the $700 million from that $1.3 billion rather than reallocating additional lottery revenue.

Read the entire article here….

Texas clergy must support public school education

From Abilene Reporter News – June 17, 2017

For more than two decades, there are those in our Texas Legislature who have sought to undermine our local neighborhood schools.

They continue to falsely say that our schools do not perform well. In fact, the number of perpetually struggling schools in Texas is 1 percent to 2 percent.  Our teachers and administrators are constantly under attack for low performance when this is simply not true.

It is morally wrong to impugn our educators when they are doing amazing jobs with the resources they have. Texas ranks in the bottom third in per capita spending for students.

On the other hand, Texas ranks second only to Iowa among the 50 states in graduation rates, at 88 percent. Unfortunately, one rarely hears or reads about this success and many others.

In 2011, more than $5 billion was removed from Texas education budget. About 60 percent of that has been returned. Many in the Legislature praised themselves for reinstating those funds but 60 percent hardly makes up for those losses.

Six years later, with hundreds of thousands of new students, many of our schools struggle to meet minimum budgets. The Texas Legislature at one time funded more than 50 percent of our local school budgets. That number is now around 38 percent.  Of course this increases the burden for local taxpayers.

There are many who are officed all over the state who want to take money from the public trust and give it to private schools in the form of a voucher. How can it make sense to take money from an already financially strapped system to expand government and create a parallel system?

When a religious school takes money from the government, the force of government regulation will follow. Sadly, some senators actually say aloud that they want to give the money to these schools without accountability.  Are we going to give money to the Baptist, Methodist, Muslim or Catholic schools with no accountability?

That is simply scary. Who decides what schools are “worthy” and which ones are not?

In 1785, John Adams said, “The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one-mile square without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves.”

Adams knew that a foundation for a great society is that all children be educated. As one superintendent put it, “We take all children without judgment regardless of who they are, what their demographics are, or their previous academic performance. Not only do we admit them, we keep them. We adopt them as our own and we don’t stop educating them. No matter the circumstances, these educators keep reaching out to support and to educate.”

Texas schools are stronger through our diversity. Educators do not look for opportunities to exclude students, but include. These wonderful teachers embrace and celebrate these differences.

Teachers are not afraid. Their hearts break over the plight of many of these kids and, sadly many spend thousands of dollars out of their own pockets (some, more) to help. Many children struggle financially or battle to learn a new language.  Our teachers do not give up, they only work harder.  Yet, we are told by our leaders that our schools are godless institutions.

Public school educators often are attacked because of the current perception of public schools in our state. When the vast majority of us have attended and flourished through the public school system, it seems absurd that we would need to endure a constant onslaught of criticism.

The climate of trust that has existed for generations is eroding because of decades of abuse and criticism coupled with reductions in support. We hear some state and national leaders define our schools as “failing” and our educators as “deficient.” Those who never have  taught in a classroom or even attended a public school are pushing to privatize and outsource our work.

If Christ has called us to do anything it is to take care of those who are powerless and voiceless.  t’s time for clergy to stand up and be heard on this matter, it is time for church leaders to lend their voice, it is time for all of us to tell those who want to destroy what has worked so well for so long to stop it.

Our 5.4 million children in Texas and their educators need to know we are behind them.

— The Revs. Phil Christopher, Bobby Broyles, Chuck Farina, Kelly Pigott, Charlie Johnson, Cliff Stewart, Stan Allcorn, Don Wilson and Kelvin Kelley, and Dr. Bob Ellis, associate dean for academics for Logsdon Seminary.

Gov. Abbott calls special session on bathrooms, abortion, school finance

Gov. Greg Abbott on Tuesday called a special session of the Texas Legislature starting July 18 and promised to make it a sweeping one if lawmakers cooperate.

Abbott gave legislators an ambitious 19-item agenda to work on — including a “bathroom bill” — but only after they approve must-pass legislation that they failed to advance during the regular session. An overtime round, Abbott said, was “entirely avoidable.”

“Because of their inability or refusal to pass a simple law that would prevent the medical profession from shutting down, I’m announcing a special session to complete that unfinished business,” Abbott told reporters. “But if I’m going to ask taxpayers to foot the bill for a special session, I intend to make it count.”

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick had been pushing Abbott to call a special session on the bathroom issue, as well as property taxes. Abbott also added the latter item to the call, reiterating his support for legislation that would create automatic rollback elections when a city or county wants to raise property taxes above a certain amount.

Read the entire article here…

Rev. Charles Foster Johnson on Lubbock Radio

z818June 15, 2017

Rev. Charles Foster Johnson, the Executive Director for Pastors for Texas Children was recently interviewed by Jay Leeson on the West Texas Drive radio program. Rev. Johnson discussed the work of PTC and the legislature regarding their recent actions on Texas public schools.

Click here to listen to Rev. Johnson talk about the value of public schools! 

A Memorial Day Prayer

Dr. Robert Flynn is a noted author and professor. This prominent Texas Baptist lay leader is a partner with PTC. He prayed this prayer in Memorial Day remembrance for his church, Woodland Baptist in San Antonio:

Holy One who knows and remembers us all, On this day of remembrance

As we remember those who made this beautiful land a nation of freedom and justice for some, let us dedicate ourselves to make it a land of freedom and justice for all.

As we remember our love for our land, for those we lost, may our remembrance bring us closer to love for all in the land, even the least of us.

As we remember our oath to defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic, may we recommit ourselves to that oath.

As we remember those who represent us in places of horror and heroism may they remember that they also represent the Prince of Peace.

As we remember our enemies may we remember they also are made in your image and recognize their dedication to their understanding of what you require.

As we remember the innocents who die of perceived necessity, the ruin that endures for generations may we remember that only your love can make all things anew.

As we remember those driven from their homes because of the sins of others, may we be their refuge as they seek refuge in you.

As we remember to vote, to pay our taxes, to salute the flag and pledge allegiance to one nation indivisible may we also remember our duty to feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, care for the sick, assist those in prison, even the least of us.

As we remember glory, may we also remember how easily young men and women bleed, how fragile are the bones that bear the burden.

Heal our scars, mend our minds, restore our spirit as we remember what you require of us—to serve justice, to love mercy, to walk humbly, not in front clearing our way for you, not behind defending our name for you but beside you as you cleanse our nation of greed, of covetousness, of pride in power, authority and control.

That even in our failure to be like you, we bear witness to your love and your forgiveness.

In the name of the one who loves us all

Amen

House repudiates vouchers, Senate kills school funding bill

The Texas House of Representatives resoundingly repudiated private school vouchers t​his afternoon​ in two additional votes, both by 2/3 margins, adding to the overwhelming defeat of vouchers in general from earlier in the legislative session.

In a surprising procedural move, the Texas Senate last week attached a voucher amendment to HB 21, the much-needed school funding bill providing structural relief for our community and neighborhood schools.

But, thanks to your strong witness and that of countless thousands of others,  House Speaker Joe Straus, House Public Ed Committee Chair Dan Huberty, and other House leaders stood their ground against the Senate leadership’s cynical ploy, and returned HB 21 to a House/Senate conference committee with the instruction that no money whatsoever be diverted to private schools.  At that point, the Senate conceded the defeat of the bill.

It is crystal clear to us, from conducting 400 meetings around the great state of Texas over the past four years of our existence, that Texans love their public schools and do not wish to see them privatized through vouchers.  We have witnessed tremendous community support for public education, led in no small measure by the faithful service of pastors and congregational leaders.  We thank God for this consistent, steady servant leadership.

The work that lies before us will be substantial. We have much solidarity yet to show to our teachers and schoolchildren. And we have a profound moral charge to work in such a way that our elected officials in the legislature of the state of Texas understand that universal education for all children– regardless of race, economics, condition, and background–  is a basic human right before God, and provided by civil society everywhere.