For your own good, pay attention

By David Currie – Pastors for Texas Children Board Member

My favorite author, Frederick Buechner, has some memorable, thought-provoking quotes in his books. One of my favorites is:

“Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery it is. In the boredom and pain of it, no less than in the excitement and gladness; touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it, because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace.”

What I take from Buechner’s words is to live fully, make wise decisions; in other words, pay attention to your life. Pay attention to the special moments that happen every day and to all that is happening in the world around you, even in politics.

We are starting a new year. We just experienced a divisive presidential election. My candidate lost. Yet life goes on.

See the entire article here ….

Rev. Charles Foster Johnson – Statement on Gov. Greg Abbott’s Endorsement of School Choice Vouchers

Rev. Charles Foster Johnson - Executive Director of Pastors for Texas Children

Rev. Charles Foster Johnson – Executive Director of Pastors for Texas Children

January 24, 2017  by Rev. Charles Foster Johnson

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said today that school choice voucher programs constitute “a civil rights issue” and said he would sign a school choice bill if one comes to him.

With all due respect to Gov. Abbott, voucher-type schemes are the antithesis of civil rights.

“School choice” voucher programs re-segregate our schools according to race.

“School choice” vouchers are not for poor children, as they are purported to be, because they don’t begin to cover the cost of a private school education.

“School choice” vouchers underwrite the private education of families affluent enough to send their children to private schools.

“School choice” vouchers violate religious liberty by establishing and advancing religious schools with public tax dollars.

“School choice” vouchers are unconstitutional because they do not “make suitable provision for the support and maintenance of an efficient system of public free schools” as the Texas Constitution mandates the Texas Legislature to do.

“School choice” vouchers deplete the funding of the public schools that do not screen or discriminate, but accept and love all children regardless of race and class.

“School choice” vouchers destabilize and overburden the traditional neighborhood public school.

“School choice” vouchers expand and extend government into the sacred and private spheres of our home and church schools.

“School choice” voucher programs do not improve the education of children who receive them.

“School choice” vouchers are not a real “choice” at all, except for those who would privatize the public trust of education for all children, making commodities of our kids and markets of our classrooms.

The American civil rights tradition was forged by values of human dignity and equality taught and modeled for our children every day in traditional public schools.  Hijacking the term “civil rights” to advance the narrow private interest of “school choice” vouchers is morally wrong, and we call upon Gov. Abbott and other Texas state leaders to cease doing so now.

School ratings are a shallow attempt to grade a complex system

JANUARY 25, 2017  FROM TRIB TALK – A PUBLICATION OF THE TEXAS TRIBUNE

by Charles Luke – Associate Director of Pastors for Texas Children

During the first week back from Christmas, Texas schoolchildren, parents, teachers, administrators and communities were greeted with the news that many of them aren’t up to snuff. On the same day that Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick unfurled his already infamous “bathroom bill”, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) released its 2015-16 A-F Ratings, effectively splashing cold water all over Texas communities diligently engaged in educating the state’s children. Although officials say these are preliminary report cards, thousands of schools feel shortchanged.

Dr. Charles Luke is the Associate Director of Pastors for Texas Children

Dr. Charles Luke is the Associate Director of Pastors for Texas Children

The A-F rating system — patterned after the A-F grading system on students’ report cards — was ushered in by the Texas Legislature in 2015 and was touted as a way for parents and communities to have a clear, concise way to tell just how well or poorly their schools are actually doing.

Regardless of this claim, research reported by the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) and conducted by the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University indicated that basing a letter grade almost exclusively on student test scores does not account for other factors that contribute to school performance, including factors outside of a teacher’s control. The researchers also found that A-F grades in Oklahoma did not lead to school improvement because they don’t explain what led to low performance and do nothing to build educational capacity.

Subsequent research by researchers at The Education Trust found that A-F systems actually mask low performance among certain sub-groups, hide high performance, and inhibit parental participation in low-performing schools.

One of the most compelling and as yet untold stories is what A-F will do to community development across Texas.

One of the most profound economic engines in Texas is the growth in property values and property taxes fueled by the steady influx of people from other states. A corporate-friendly state, Texas has reaped the benefits of new industry and rapid growth. All of this growth has led to the development of a strong residential real estate industry with steady and significant rises in the median home price over the last few years.

What happens to Texas communities when the quality of schools — a strong, locational motivator — is impugned by artificially low performance ratings? Highland Park ISD is an interesting example of this. The median home price in this area is just over $1.6 million. While the district received good grades on Student Achievement, Student Progress, and Closing Performance Gaps, they received a “C” on Postsecondary Readiness. Who wants to pay $1.6 million for a house only to put their child in a school that the rating system says provides weak preparation for college or the workforce? Realtors in Texas need to ask themselves why they are allowing an unproven system to be imposed that potentially will cost them millions of dollars in lost real estate commissions.

Whether the A-F release was pre-engineered to coincide with the lieutenant governor’s bathroom bill announcement or not, the timing couldn’t have been more symbolic. Patrick is an unyielding proponent of vouchers and the privatization of schools, something that A-F notoriously sets up by declaring large numbers of public schools as failures.

When the complex nature of educating large numbers of diverse children can be subverted with an oversimplified letter grade that says next to nothing, arguing for the need to replace that school becomes that much easier.

Finally, the A-F system is an insult to every child who works hard to learn and to every dedicated teacher who works hard to teach. For years, legislators have complained about organizations that rate their performance without understanding the complex nature of politics. Now, it looks like they are willing to do the same to our kids.

Video: Rev. Charles F. Johnson provides invited testimony at House Public Education Committee

On October 17, 2016 Rev. Charles F. Johnson, Executive Director for Pastors for Texas Children provided invited testimony on public school vouchers to the Texas House of Representatives Public Education Committee.  Johnson spoke against vouchers saying that the privatization of public schools would “turn our classrooms into marketplaces and our children into commodities.”

 See his testimony by clicking here…

Texas: Pastors Stand Together Against Vouchers: They Join the Honor Roll!

From Diane Ravitch’s Blog – December 10, 2016

Rev. Charles Foster Johnson has organized strong resistance to the vouchers touted by the most powerful elected official in Texas, not the governor, but the Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, a former talk show host. Rev. Johnson is leader to Pastors for Texas Children, which has 2,000 members across the state. They are united in their opposition to vouchers and their support for public schools. Year after year, they have defeated vouchers in the legislature, and they are gearing up to fight them again. You can read more about his and his organization here.

I am happy to place Rev. Johnson and Pastors for Texas Children on the blog’s honor roll for their stalwart defense of public schools, of the children of Texas, of religious liberty, and of the principle of separation of church and state.

Read the entire blog article here …..

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.