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.

Pastors for Texas Children Statement on Senate Passage of HB 21 With Vouchers Attached

May 22, 2017

In the dead of last night, the Texas Senate, for the second time this legislative session, passed a voucher policy that transfers public tax money to private schools.

Under Speaker Joe Straus’ leadership, House Bill 21 came to the Senate with a structural reform provision for school funding calling for $1.6 billion additional dollars for our schoolchildren.

But due to the legislative bullying of their leadership, the Senate stripped that provision by almost two-thirds—and attached a voucher amendment to the bill that would divert already strapped public education funds to private schools.

The bill now returns to the House of Representatives where that voucher amendment must be removed. The House has already repudiated voucher policy by a more than 2/3 thirds vote earlier this session.

It is simply wrong to underwrite private education with public funds, even if that voucher is for children with special needs.  90% of our Texas schoolchildren are educated through the public school system supported by the public trust.  Private school vouchers provide for the few at the expense of the many.  They are inherently unjust.

When the voucher supports a religious school with public dollars, whether Baptist, Catholic, Muslim or Wiccan, it is a government establishment of a religious cause.  In doing so, vouchers violate God’s principle of religious liberty for all people without interference from any government authority.

It is abundantly clear that the leadership of the Texas State Senate does not believe in public education for all children. For them to persist in saying so is a deception that we take no pleasure in confronting.  Such hypocrisy is morally unacceptable.

Our Texas schools serve 5.3 million children, the majority of whom are poor. To transfer and redistribute wealth away from them to private schools through vouchers is offensive to God and decent people everywhere.  We are grateful for a Texas House with the courage to say no to this corruption of our common good, and we pray for a Texas Senate that is willing to do the same.

Critical Action Alert

Dear PTC Friends,

What we feared all along this legislative session is now happening.

A special-needs voucher provision has been attached to the school funding bill by the Senate Education Committee.

In short, the pro-voucher Senate will not allow any increase in money for our neighborhood and community schools until and unless they get some kind of voucher policy in Texas.

The pro-voucher people are desperate.  Powerful monied interests far outside the state of Texas want to profit off our children. They won’t quit until they tap into this market.

We know how wrong it is to fund the private education of a few with money dedicated to the public education of the many.

We know how unjust it is to corrupt the public trust through a subsidy for private interests.

We know how unwise it is to promote yet another government entitlement and expansion program that intrudes into our private schools.

Most important, we know how unrighteous it is to violate God’s gift of religious liberty by using government money to promote religious causes.

So, as much as our children need the increased funding, we must say NO to the privatization of God’s gift of public education.

Please call your state senator and state representative NOW and urge their opposition to this bill, CSHB21 (Committee Substitute House Bill 21). Attached is all the information you need. You can find their Austin phone numbers here: http://www.capitol.state.tx.us/

Please pray for our Senate and House members. Please spread the word today to other pastoral and lay colleagues.

Do it for our children. ALL our children.

We thank God for you and your witness!

All best,

Rev. Charles Foster Johnson

How grassroots groups are mobilizing Texans on top issues

TEXAS TRIBUNE – April 26, 2017 – Alex Samuels

(The following article features Pastors for Texas Children)

This legislative session, we’ve been examining the various ways Texans can participate in the political process, from contacting lawmakers to testifying before the state House and Senate. This week, we’re talking to several Texans who represent, or are a part of, community groups seeking to influence policy by engaging with like-minded individuals.

These groups are a staple of the session, driving demonstrations on the Capitol steps, but also organizing across the state long after the Legislature adjourns. 

Read on for tips from organizers on how they work to elevate grassroots voices at the Capitol — then tell us about the groups you’re involved in by filling out this short form. These interviews have been edited for clarity and brevity.

This post is part of of our Come and Take it Challenge, which encourages readers to learn more about how Texas government works. You can participate by messaging “hello” to Paige, our Facebook Messenger bot, at m.me/texastribune. She’ll send you twice-weekly updates on news out of the Texas Legislature, plus details on completing the challenge. Participants are eligible to win tickets to the Texas Tribune Festival in September; see full details here.

Read the entire article here…

Texas House rejects vouchers

“The Texas House of Representatives voted today 103 to 44  to prohibit budget money for private school vouchers.

“We are deeply grateful for the leadership of Speaker Straus and the  overwhelming majority of Texas House  members who realize that Texans love and support their neighborhood and community public schools – and do not want to see them privatized through school vouchers.
“As we have consistently said over the three years of our existence, it is morally wrong for government money  and meddling to be inserted into the voluntary assemblies of our fine church schools.
“We humbly remind our elected officials that universal education is a fundamental human right for all children, mandated by the Texas constitution and clearly taught by people of faith everywhere.
“We pray that the Texas Legislature will cease their dabbling into this violation of God’s gift of religious liberty for all people, and will begin focusing on the real needs of our 5.3 million Texas public schoolchildren.”

Texas lawmakers are letting teachers down

12Texas public school teachers are heroes. They work hard for low pay, and with massive legislative budget cuts, spend significant personal dollars on their students’ school supplies. Teachers are the front line of care for Texas children. If a child has a learning issue or a problem in the home, teachers are the first to see and intercede at the risk of being blamed for it.

On top of this, our Legislature loves to blame teachers for the mess lawmakers have created by underfunding public schools.

Pastors for Texas Children (PTC) are weary of legislators attacking teachers. Rather than adequately funding struggling schools (a small number of the state’s 8,500 public schools are struggling), state leaders fault teachers and propose schemes to privatize education that would enrich a few at the expense of many by draining even more funds from public schools.

The Texas courts have repeatedly given the Texas Legislature an “F” for their inadequate support for Texas public schools. The Legislature has responded by creating a system to grade schools without reference to their own poor performance in providing resources for those schools.

The latest legislative attack on teachers is Senate Bill 13, which removes teachers’ rights to have voluntary association dues automatically deducted from their paycheck. Teachers have enjoyed this right for more than 20 years at almost no cost to the state. Many Texans enjoy this right at work, including many Texas public employees. Our legislators enjoy this right. SB 13 would allow law enforcement, firefighters, and EMS workers to continue this right. SB 13 mainly targets teachers. Why make teacher’s lives harder by effectively weakening voluntary organizations that support them?

The four teacher associations receiving these dues offer teachers a variety of important support services, one of which is representation in legislative actions affecting Texas teachers and children. In their repeated failed attempts to pass voucher schemes, some legislators have refused to hear that many Texans simply don’t want private education paid from public funds. Many groups have opposed their efforts as damaging to Texas children overall, including the teacher associations. But of all these opponents, these legislators are blaming the teachers and attacking them through SB 13.

PTC has over 2,000 members, urban and rural clergy joined in supporting a strong system of public education for all Texas children, and the excellent professionals who make that system effective. We support the minor convenience of an automatic payroll deduction for these professionals to join an association that meets their needs and representing their interests.

Furthermore, we note the discriminatory exemption of male-dominated state worker groups in SB 13 — firefighters and law enforcement — and the attack on female-dominated public services such as public educators. We thank God for all our public servants in the helping professions of Texas. Why would our legislative leaders want to pit one against another in this petty way?

We also recognize the deeper negative effect of this bill on teachers in rural areas who may have greater difficulty securing support services if their teacher association is weakened.

We hear the arguments in favor of SB 13 as a disingenuous cover for an anti-democratic attempt to punish and weaken teachers for opposing the greedy movement to privatize and profiteer public education in Texas to the detriment of Texas children. We see SB 13 as an attack on teachers’ voices through their associations.

Legislators, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” Focus instead on supporting Texas public school teachers and our marvelous neighborhood and community public schools! Maybe this session, you can get earn a better grade in supporting the children of Texas by supporting a strong system of public education and the teachers who make it work.

The Rev. Dr. Larry Bethune, Senior Pastor, University Baptist Church, Austin

The Rev. Dr. Tim Bruster, Senior Minister, First United Methodist Church, Fort Worth

The Rev. Kyle Childress, Senior Pastor, Austin Heights Baptist Church, Nacogdoches

The Rev. John Elford, Senior Pastor, University United Methodist Church, Austin

The Rev. Dr. Charles Kutz-Marks, University Christian Church, Austin

The Rev. Dr. George Mason, Senior Pastor, Wilshire Baptist Church, Dallas

The Rev. Ryon Price, Senior Pastor, Second Baptist Church of Lubbock

The Rev. Dr. Andy Stoker, Senior Minister, First United Methodist Church, Dallas

The Rev. Tom VandeStadt, Congregational Church of Austin, UCC, Austin

The Rev. Dr. Steve Wells, Senior Pastor, South Main Baptist Church, Houston

The Rev. Tommy Williams, Senior Pastor, St. Paul’s United Methodist Church, Houston

 

PTC Statement on the Senate Passage of SB 3

SB 3 providing private school vouchers with public tax dollars passed the Texas Senate this afternoon on an 18-13 vote.

It succeeded only after procedural maneuvering and bad-faith legislative manipulation that is beneath the dignity of a democracy of the people of Texas.

Rural Republican Senate members accepted the terms of the bill after assurances that their districts would be exempted from its toxic effects.  In short, they supported a policy that they would not have for the children of their communities.  We have rarely seen such cynicism among public policymakers.

Essentially, what the bill does is provide a new government entitlement program for poor families to place their children in woefully inadequate private schools far inferior to their neighborhood public schools—all without the proper accountability and oversight that should accompany tax dollars.

Furthermore, it violates God’s Law of religious liberty for all people by authorizing government funds to establish religious causes and purposes in faith-based private schools.

In the midst of this morass of moral compromise, Senator Kel Seliger of Amarillo and Senator Robert Nichols of Jacksonville withstood Senate leadership’s relentless pressure to betray their convictions and support the bill.  Unlike their rural Republican colleagues, they were steadfast in their opposition to the policy and remained unbowed.  We are particularly grateful for their courage.

We pray this bad bill will die a quick death in the House of Representatives.  Speaker Joe Straus and House Public Education Chairman Dan Huberty have declared clearly and resolutely their opposition to it.

The public education of all children is clearly mandated by the Texas Constitution and consistently advanced by the moral and spiritual vision of all faiths.  Pastors for Texas Children remain committed to this foundation of our social order and join all people of God and good will in preserving it.

Unfortunate goal of school choice movement

David Currie, Special to the Standard-Times

PTC Board Member David Currie

PTC Board Member David Currie

Many years ago, Jerry Falwell articulated the goal of the school choice movement well when he said, “I hope I live to see the day when, as in the early days of our country, we won’t have any public schools. The churches will have taken them over again and Christians will be running them. What a happy day that will be!”

Since the beginning of the religious right movement with Falwell, Phyllis Schlafly, Pat Robertson and others, the aim has been to destroy public education in America. Today they are closer than ever to achieving their goal because it is now being promoted by the president, his education secretary Betsy DeVos and Republican leaders in Texas government including the governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, agriculture commissioner and land commissioner.

This is what you have elected in Texas, my friends, by choosing party over sanity.

Vouchers, school choice, education savings accounts — they are all code words intended to mask the real aim of this movement: destroy public education in America and turn all schools into institutions of religious indoctrination.

Now you may say, “Well, David, you are being an alarmist. It would never go that far. Why not try it in Texas?”

Pastors for Texas Children, on whose board I serve, will host an information session at 7 p.m. on Thursday, March 9, at Southland Baptist Church. Speakers will include Veribest Superintendent Bobby Fryar and Barry Haenisch, executive director of the Texas Association of Community Schools. The purpose is to answer that very question for you.

But let me do my best to answer it here. I live in the Wall ISD. If 20 students get $5,000 apiece to leave the public school to attend a private school, Wall ISD will lose close to $130,000 that can’t be replaced. That money is just lost. No teacher can be fired, no bus route stopped, no money on utilities saved — they just lose the money.

So let me speak bluntly to my friends in the Wall ISD (and you can apply this to any ISD in our area) — when you keep electing right-wing, religious right Republicans at the state and national level, you are voting to close our schools. Please figure that out before it’s too late.

Notice I didn’t say all Republicans. State Rep. Drew Darby is a Republican who opposes vouchers. No, I said “right-wing, religious right” Republicans such as Dan Patrick, Ken Paxton, Ted Cruz, Sid Miller (yes, we have a Texas agriculture commissioner who is trying to destroy our rural communities — he sponsored the voucher bill when in the Texas House). Please take the time to learn where different Republicans stand on our children’s education.

Now let me warn you about something else. Since 2008, the state has reduced spending on education by $339 per student and reduced the state’s share of spending on public education from 44.9 percent to 38.4 percent. They keep pushing the burden onto local taxpayers while bragging they are cutting taxes. (They do this to our counties as well).

Public education already is underfunded by the state; if vouchers pass we will be using tax dollars to support both public and private schools, which will harm our public schools even more.

David R. Currie, Ph.D., serves on the board of Pastors for Texas Children and is the chairman of the Tom Green County Democratic Party.