Pastors for Texas Children Become a Rising Voice Against School Vouchers

By John Savage
For Reporting Texas

“We’ve got a God-given responsibility to maintain and keep this public trust, to protect public schools,” Rev. Charles Foster Johnson bellowed at several dozen pastors, snapping them to attention as they ate breakfast.

img_1826Johnson, 59, is the Fort Worth-based executive director of Pastors for Texas Children, a network of about 2,000 church leaders around the state who work to support pubic schools.

Johnson and his group have emerged as chief adversaries of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. Patrick champions a breed of education reform forged around vouchers — which steer money from public schools to parents to pay private school tuition.

“The lieutenant governor said, a couple of weeks ago, he’ll keep bringing it up until it passes,” Foster told the pastors, who were gathered for a meeting of Texas Baptists Committed in Waco. “It’s up to us to stop him.”

In his baritone southern drawl, Johnson told the pastors that vouchers siphon funds from schools in low-income neighborhoods and violate the separation of church and state enshrined in the First Amendment. School vouchers contradict God’s law of religious liberty, he said, by providing government support for religion.

Read entire article here …..

Texas pastor: ‘A classroom is a holy place of learning — not a marketplace of financial gain’

October 27 at 2:19 PM – Washington Post

49Charles Foster Johnson is the executive director of Pastors for Texas Children, an independent ministry and outreach group that comprises nearly 2,000 pastors and church leaders from across Texas and works to support public education. Johnson recently testified in Austin about school vouchers — which use public funds to pay for private school tuition — and corporate school reform before the Texas House Education Committee, chaired by state Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock (R), and his words are worth reading.

A voucher bill passed in the Texas Senate, as it does every year, but members of the Texas House have voted against it in past years, and Johnson’s organization is fighting against it again. Here is the powerful testimony as written and submitted to Aycock’s committee. When talking to the panel, Johnson diverged somewhat from the text, and you can watch him on this video, starting at the 3:50 mark.

Read the entire story here ….

Charles Foster Johnson: Why Texas Pastors Oppose Vouchers

Diane Ravitch Blog – 10/26/2016

In the annual fight in Texas over school vouchers, one of the strongest, most consistent defenders of public schools is an influential group known as Pastors for Texas Children. They believe in the importance of public education as a democratic right and they strongly support the separation of church and state.

At recent legislative hearings in Austin, their executive director Charles Foster Johnson testified against a voucher bill that was passed in the State Senate. This battle occurs every year. Thus far, a coalition of rural Republicans and urban Democrats has managed to defeat vouchers in the House. Pastor Johnson and his colleagues have been a powerful group in staving off privatization.

Read the entire story here …

Public education a moral duty, Baptist minister tells House committee

AUSTIN—Texas has a moral obligation to educate all its children and a constitutional duty to direct tax funds to public education, not divert public money to private alternatives, a Baptist minister told the House Committee on Public Education.

Texas has a moral duty to provide good public education for all the state’s children, Charles Foster Johnson, a Baptist minister and executive director of Pastors for Texas Children told a House committee. (Photo/woodleywonderworks/cc/by/2.0)

Texas has a moral duty to provide good public education for all the state’s children, Charles Foster Johnson, a Baptist minister and executive director of Pastors for Texas Children told a House committee. (Photo/woodleywonderworks/cc/by/2.0)

Charles Foster JohnsonCharles Foster Johnson, pastor of Bread Fellowship in Fort Worth and executive director of Pastors for Texas Children, presented invited testimony to the committee during an Oct. 17 public hearing.

“We have a public trust before God to educate all our children, and that means all—not just children who can afford it, not just children whose parents are engaged, but all children,” Johnson said.

Public education is a moral, democratic, societal and spiritual duty, he asserted.

“Public education is not a commodity, and we are not clients. We are not customers. We are citizens,” he insisted. “We are engaged in a common good—God’s common good.”

Public school teachers are fulfilling a divine calling, instilling the principles of good citizenship and moral character in students, Johnson said.

“A spiritual enterprise is not given to free-market dynamics or cost-benefit analysis or competition,” he insisted, adding in the printed remarks he submitted to the committee: “A classroom is a holy place of learning, not a marketplace of financial gain. To make commodities of our kids and markets of our classrooms is to misunderstand—and profane—the spirituality of education.”

Read the entire article here ….

Pastors for Texas Children Executive Director to provide invited testimony at Texas House Public Education Committee meeting

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

October 14, 2016

Rev. Charles F. Johnson to testify before Texas House Public Education Committee

Rev. Charles F. Johnson to testify before Texas House Public Education Committee

Pastors for Texas Children – an organization with nearly 2000 registered ministers dedicated to providing wrap-around care and support for children in neighborhood public schools – is pleased to announce that our Executive Director, Rev. Charles F. Johnson has been invited to testify before the Texas House Public Education Committee this Monday, October 17th at 9:00 a.m. at the Capitol in Austin. The interim meeting is focused on “school choice” – something Johnson says is vouchers by another name.

“I’m honored to be asked to deliver direct testimony of what we have seen in our neighborhood schools,” Rev. Johnson said. “That Pastors for Texas Children is recognized by the legislature as a significant voice on public education is validation of all of the hard work put in by our pastors and church leaders in support of public schools over the past few years.”

Johnson went on to say that his main concerns about vouchers involve the welfare of Texas children.  “Simply put, it is morally unacceptable to take money from the public education of all our children to underwrite the private education of a few.”

Johnson is also concerned with the protection of the fundamental right of religious liberty of private and home schools.  “The State of Texas has absolutely zero authority to meddle in the affairs of our fine religious private schools. Vouchers and voucher-schemes erode the very principles of religious freedom on which our country was founded. Since when did God need Caesar’s money to do the Lord’s work?”

Other speakers slated to appear on the same panel as Johnson are Luis Huerta, Associate Professor of Education and Public Policy from Columbia University, and Thomas Ratliff, Vice Chair of the Texas State Board of Education.

The meeting is slated to begin at 9:00 a.m. on Monday, October 17th at the Texas State Capitol in room E2.036.  You can watch the meeting live at the Texas Legislature Online website at www.capitol.state.tx.us  and clicking on Video Broadcasts.

Leeson: Patrick’s school vouchers go against conservative principles

by Jay Leeson for the Lubbock Avalanche Journal

TEXAS LT. GOV. Dan Patrick’s school voucher initiatives aren’t conservative, they’re entitlements. And they’re absurd.

The absurdity goes full bore when proponents make voucher entitlements sound like the most fire-breathing conservative concept since Moses came down from Sinai.

In recent years, consultants have rebranded poorly polling “vouchers” to a more conservative sounding “school choice,” accompanied with market economy jargon.

Read the full article here ….

Charles Luke, guest columnist: Segregation driving ‘school choice’ charade

Updated

We all know that many politicians are prone to exaggeration. Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s recent statement that private school vouchers, or “school choice” as he puts it, is a civil rights issue is just such an exaggeration. In fact, Patrick’s costly voucher schemes could drain billions from local schools and deny many students their right to receive a quality education.

The history of vouchers actually suggests that they were a way to avoid granting civil rights to others. Vouchers were developed in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education ruling in 1954 that schools integrate and end the charade of “separate but equal” treatment of students. For at least a decade, some states simply ignored the ruling, but with passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 states began to implement “freedom of choice” programs that would allow white parents to take their child to a select school and thereby leave segregation patterns untouched. Mississippi even had “segregation academies” that only white children could attend.

Read full article here…

 

School vouchers a civil rights issue? “No” says Pastors for Texas Children

AUSTIN—Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has framed the school voucher debate in terms of enabling parents choose their child’s school, calling it a crucial civil rights issue. And a Baptist minister who leads a pro-public education advocacy group calls that “blasphemous.”

Equating efforts to secure public funds for parochial education with the civil rights struggle represents “a desperate and cynical attempt to make vouchers more palatable,” said Charles Foster Johnson, executive director of Pastors for Texas Children.

“It dishonors the memory and witness of those who sacrificed so much in the quest toward human equality and justice,” Johnson said.

“It seeks to do something bad in the name of something good. The only ‘right’ Lt. Gov. Patrick’s misguided policies will secure is that of wealthy private interests to make our schools for-profit enterprises—that is, to make commodities of our children and markets of our classrooms.”

Read full article here…

When did students become pawns?

By Craig Rothmeier – Make Education a Priority – August 18, 2016

©rexteterphotographyA couple of weeks ago, the Senate Education Committee met to discuss a number of items relating to public education, somewhat driven by a charge from the Lt. Governor to assess funding considerations given the recent Texas Supreme Court ruling on school finance. Recall the words “minimum constitutional requirements” as words that should have triggered more fruitful discussions than what have transpired so far.  Admittedly, there is time until the Legislature convenes but the groundwork for these discussions during the session is being laid now.  The tone of the discussions, especially in the Senate, suggests to me that political agendas will continue to be the focal point, not the needs of the more than 5.2 million Texas public education students.

Read the entire blog by clicking here ….

SBOE Vice Chair Thomas Ratliff on education savings grant vouchers

Texas State Board of Education Vice Chairman Thomas Ratliff released the following information regarding education savings account vouchers that are being proposed by several Texas organizations:

EDUCATION SAVINGS ACCOUNT = GIGANTIC ENTITLEMENT PROGRAM

When I read about the proposed “education savings account” idea being proposed, I cannot help but think of one word – entitlement.  Is this an idea from President Obama?  Nope.  This is an idea from limited government conservative types.

Let’s be clear.  There are no “savings” in these accounts, because the recipient never would have paid enough taxes into the account in the first place.  There are only “donations” or “entitlements” in these accounts.  Let’s dig in to the details.

Texas spends around $8,500 per student per year in public schools.  In order for a family to pay enough taxes to fully pay that cost, the family would have to live in a $700,000 house or generate $125,000 in sales taxable transactions (or a combination of the two) PER YEAR, PER CHILD.  At these numbers, there are very, very few Texas families paying their own way.  So whose money are they saving?  Yours?  The elderly couple with no kids in school?  The local businesses in their hometown?  Yes, all of those are contributing to the “savings” account that this family can take wherever they want, apparently with no questions asked or accountability for the money.

So, how much is all of this going to cost?  The proponents of this plan want to make it available to families to spend on a variety of things, including private school tuition or homeschool curriculum.  There are currently 600,000 students who fall into those two categories alone.  Therefore, if the “savings account entitlement” is $6,000 per student, the total would be approximately $3.2 billion per year, or $6.4 billion per state budget.  Keep in mind, that NONE of these students get funding from the state budget today.

If that total figure isn’t shocking enough, let me explain how it will get even bigger.  What about the parents who, when they learn they can make an extra $500/mo. per month per kid, pull their kids out of public school and claim they will be home schooled – then simply keep the money without delivering the education.  It will happen. You can count on it. Those parents who are already disengaged from their child’s education would have no problem simply putting $500/mo. from each child’s education in their pocket.

This idea takes the word entitlement to a whole new level for Texas.  It is nothing more than a huge transfer of wealth with no way to control the price tag.

It should be very simple.  The Texas Constitution requires the state to provide a system of public free schools.  If a family chooses not to use it, they do not have the entitlement to take their neighbor’s money to the school of their choice.