A Christmas Message from Rev. Charles F. Johnson

As we enter this most holy season of the year, we turn our hearts in humble gratitude to God for the mission and ministry God is giving us through Pastors for Texas Children.  It is remarkable what God has allowed us to accomplish together in four short years.

Because of you and your witness, faith leaders and educators are banding together all over Texas to stand firm for public education as a provision of God’s Common Good.

Not only do we have 2000 pastors and congregational leaders here in Texas, but we are also expanding our mission to other states. Pastors for Oklahoma Kids is up and running and conducting a successful mission on behalf of public schools there. We have organizational meetings happening now in Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Mississippi, and robust conversations with leaders in Arizona, Arkansas, Alabama, Missouri, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina.

The most significant part of our witness is the actual compassionate assistance and help we are able to provide for neighborhood and community public schools. Countless thousands of churches are now joining in creative partnership in school improvement projects and one-on-one child mentoring and tutoring. Children are growing and learning. Teachers are empowered and encouraged. Lives are being touched and changed.

In short, God’s Word of Love is becoming fleshed out.

We were able to bring our witness to bear in grassroots communities all over Texas to block private school vouchers once again in the Texas Legislature. We have become a trusted moral voice in Austin.

Influential media such as the Dallas Morning News, Washington Post, Austin American Statesmen, NPR, Texas Tribune, Houston Chronicle, and Baptist Standard are taking note of our work.

Our own social media messaging has gained a large following this past year, mobilizing and encouraging a strong pro-public education message, as well as underscoring our bedrock conviction for religious liberty and church/state separation.

Many education advocacy groups are recognizing our work and witness together. We spoke at the annual meetings of Texas Association of School Administrators, Texas Association of Community Schools, and many other gatherings of influential educators. On your behalf, we were privileged to accept the “Friend of the Year” award from Friends of Texas Public Schools.

Denominational groups such as the Baptist General Convention of Texas that birthed us, the United Methodist Church, and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship are initiating mission partnerships with PTC.

Furthermore, national organizations such as the wonderful Network for Public Education and the Center for American Progress have recognized our work and created platforms for our message. National public education advocates such as Carol Burris, Diane Ravitch, and Randi Weingarten have become good friends and colleagues to us.

There is much work yet to do. But, for now, as we slow down and enjoy our families and congregations this Christmas, we pause and give thanks.

And we remember that “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome it.”

God’s peace to you all!

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

Rev. Charles F. Johnson receives Friend of the Year Award

Charles Johnson and Charlotte Moore-1On December 6, 2017 the Executive Director of Pastors for Texas Children, Rev. Charles Foster Johnson was awarded the Friend of the Year Award from Friends of Texas Public Schools (FOTPS). FOTPS is a statewide organization that points out and promotes the value of our Texas public schools. The Friend of the Year Award is their highest honor. Johnson received the award for his diligent and unwavering support of our Texas neighborhood public schools and over 5.3 million schoolchildren.

You can see a video about the award and about Rev. Johnson’s work by clicking here…

Churches offer entry point for Waco ISD community support

Shelly Conlon for WACO TRIBUNE – December 16, 2017

Each Tuesday, Pastor Bob Rainey, “Mr. Bob” to Kendrick Elementary School kindergartners and teachers, spends about an hour and a half pulling a few students out of class, one by one.

He sits beside them in a small chair in the middle of a long school hallway and turns page after page, mentoring the students as they sift through story after story together.

“My favorite part is just getting to talk to them. Some have more personality than others, and some just talk and talk and talk. Some don’t want to go back in for whatever reason, but it’s fun to talk to them,” said Rainey, who leads the Central United Methodist Church down the road from the campus. “But it’s all about relationships anyway. Quite frankly, that’s what Christianity is at its heart, at its base. We believe that and we’re glad to have a relationship with the school when they need something.”

The moment is fleeting with children’s books taking only a few minutes to finish, but Rainey’s brief reading sessions are part of a wider effort.

In the Bible Belt of Texas, churches are providing an entry point for community support for public schools.

Read entire article by clicking here . . .

John Kuhn Video

2Pastors for Texas Children invites you to view and share via social media and email this powerful video featuring Mineral Wells ISD Superintendent John Kuhn about the need for adequate funding for public schools.

See the video at https://vimeo.com/223637669

We are trying to get 1,000,000 views of this video so please share with everyone you know!

Pastors for Texas Children receives challenge grant from the Meadows Foundation

The Meadows Foundation of Dallas has awarded Pastors for Texas Children (PTC) a $37,500 grant for our work in advancing and promoting public education.

The Meadows Foundation will award PTC an additional $37,500 if we raise $37,500 over the next few months!  This “challenge grant” recognizes that PTC has unusual potential to cultivate grassroots advocacy for public education.

We have asked every PTC friend to give a gift of $50/$100/$200 to help us raise this challenge grant of $37,500.

We can easily make this goal if we all pitch in.   If you haven’t yet given, you can give to PTC easily online at http://pastorsfortexaschildren.com/donate or by mail at Pastors for Texas Children – PO Box 471155 – Fort Worth, Texas 76147.

This is what former TEA Commissioners Mike Moses and Jim Nelson say about PTC:   “We sincerely believe that this is a unique and independent movement that has the potential to turn the tide back in favor of public education.”

 Won’t you give to help make this a reality?  Working together, we all can make the local church and the local school a “dynamic duo” for God’s common good in every community in Texas!

God bless you, your family, your ministry, your school, and your district, and thank you for standing strong for our schoolchildren.

Charles Foster Johnson, Executive Director – Pastors for Texas Children

Meet the Texas pastor who opposes public funding of religious education — and fights the Koch agenda

 November 17 – WASHINGTON POST

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

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

If you don’t know who Charles Foster Johnson is, here’s your chance to get acquainted. Johnson is the executive director of the nonprofit organization called Pastors for Texas Children, an independent ministry and outreach group that comprises nearly 2,000 pastors and church leaders from across Texas. Its mission, according to its website:

To provide “wrap-around” care and ministry to local schools, principals, teachers, staff and schoolchildren, and to advocate for children by supporting our free, public education system, to promote social justice for children, and to advance legislation that enriches Texas children, families, and communities.

Johnson and his organization come at their mission in a way that is very different from  that of other Christian faith leaders who support the use of public funds for private and religious education through voucher and similar programs. He doesn’t, and he has been a powerful voice in support of traditional public education in Texas. And that has made him a target for people who oppose his views, which Johnson addressed in a post this month on the organization’s website:

We believe public education is a provision of God’s common good. Our faith leads us to this conviction. All children, regardless of race, religion, or economics, deserves a quality education. It is the great democratic equalizer in American life. . . .

We are pastors and congregational leaders trying to make Texas a better place for everyone.

So, we must confess that we are taken aback by the acrimony and bitterness on the part of some public policy stakeholders toward our mission. We have been accused of being “in the pocket of the teacher unions” (we do not have unions in Texas), a “front organization for the Democratic Party” (most of our pastors are from rural communities well associated with the Republican Party), and “fake pastors” by a sitting member of the House of Representatives (overworked pastors know all too well how “real” our calling is.)

Now we are being labeled as “corrupt pastors” and a “fraud” by a group active in Texas policy debates.

We have not responded to these attacks. We are seasoned pastors not unaccustomed to criticism. Our Lord counseled his disciples, “Beware when all speak well of you.” Last we checked, our 8500 public schools, 5.4 million Texas schoolchildren, and 750,000 plus public school teachers and employees need us focused on them — not on a few naysayers.

But, we are compelled by the truth of God and the integrity of God’s mission for us now to confront what is a ludicrous lie. Can we not have a debate about school funding, vouchers, our social contract, and the public trust without this sophomoric name-calling?

We are simply congregational leaders trying to protect and preserve public education for all Texas children, as the Texas Constitution in Article 7, Section 1 clearly spells out: “It shall be the duty of the Legislature of this State to establish and make suitable provision for the support and maintenance of an efficient system of public free schools.” It is to this constitutional conservatism that we as faith leaders are committed.

Here is an interview with Johnson conducted by Jennifer Berkshire, the education editor at AlterNet and the co-host of a biweekly podcast on education in the time of President Trump. Berkshire worked for six years editing a newspaper for the American Federation of Teachers in Massachusetts. This piece first appeared on AlterNet and Berkshire gave The Washington Post permission to publish it.

Click here to read the full article….

A more excellent way

by Rev. Charles Foster Johnson

Rev. Charles Foster Johnson - Executive Director

Rev. Charles Foster Johnson – Executive Director

Pastors for Texas Children was formed in 2013 as a movement to mobilize faith leaders throughout Texas for public education support and advocacy. We were birthed out of the Christian Life Commission of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, 5500 Baptist churches throughout the great State of Texas.

Our mission rapidly expanded and we soon became an independent 501.c3 non-profit organization. In four short years, we have attracted over 2000 faith leaders representing over 1000 Texas churches of all denominations.  As a non-profit, especially a Christian ministry, we are publically monitored and value openness and transparency.

We believe public education is a provision of God’s common good. Our faith leads us to this conviction. All children, regardless of race, religion, or economics, deserves a quality education. It is the great democratic equalizer in American life.

Therefore, Pastors for Texas Children promote the improvement of the local school by the involvement of the local church, and the formulation of good school policy in state government. That means, quite simply, this: we want every single local church to be involved in every single local school, and we want that church and her leaders to influence Senate and House members to support pro-public education policies.

First, we assist the principal and teachers with school supplies, mentoring and tutoring, facility maintenance and spiritual support—all while honoring our American civil tradition of church/state separation. Second, we support full funding of our neighborhood and community public schools, oppose all policies that divert public funds to private schools, and affirm quality pre-kindergarten education.

We are pastors and congregational leaders trying to make Texas a better place for everyone.

So, we must confess that we are taken aback by the acrimony and bitterness on the part of some public policy stakeholders toward our mission. We have been accused of being “in the pocket of the teacher unions” (we do not have unions in Texas), a “front organization for the Democratic Party” (most of our pastors are from rural communities well associated with the Republican Party), and “fake pastors” by a sitting member of the House of Representatives (overworked pastors know all too well how “real” our calling is.)

Now we are being labeled as “corrupt pastors” and a “fraud” by a group active in Texas policy debates.

We have not responded to these attacks. We are seasoned pastors not unaccustomed to criticism. Our Lord counseled his disciples, “Beware when all speak well of you.” Last we checked, our 8500 public schools, 5.4 million Texas schoolchildren, and 750,000 plus public school teachers and employees need us focused on them—not on a few naysayers.

But, we are compelled by the truth of God and the integrity of God’s mission for us now to confront what is a ludicrous lie. Can we not have a debate about school funding, vouchers, our social contract, and the public trust without this sophomoric name-calling?

We are simply congregational leaders trying to protect and preserve public education for all Texas children, as the Texas Constitution in Article 7, Section 1 clearly spells out: “It shall be the duty of the Legislature of this State to establish and make suitable provision for the support and maintenance of an efficient system of public free schools.” It is to this constitutional conservatism that we as faith leaders are committed.

Churches are no more perfect than any other of society’s institutions. Pastors of those churches are flawed humans, as are our political, medical, media, educational and business leaders.

This is why we must make our public discourse more civil, our policy debates less personal, and our legislative process more open and inclusive. “Come, let us reason together, thus sayeth the Lord,” is the call and command of Holy Scripture through the prophet Isaiah.

We are in a dangerous season in our national and state life when we view the “other” with suspicion rather than trust and cooperation—especially clergy dedicated to the work of ministry and the rule of God in the world. To demean ministers with personal invective and derogatory language is beneath every self-respecting Texan.

Let’s quit this childish practice. It gets us nowhere in solving the vexing problems and challenges we face. Let’s have a robust debate on the merits and demerits of school policy—not ad hominem attacks. Let’s model for our fellow citizens how persons of divergent viewpoints can engage productively on difficult issues.

We are Texans who still believe in our Lord’s moral teaching: “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.”

We can do better. We must do better.

PTC Statement on Speaker Joe Straus’ Decision Not To Seek Re-election – Rev. Charles Foster Johnson, Executive Director

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

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

We receive the news today of Speaker Joe Straus’ decision not to seek re-election to the Texas House of Representatives with sadness that the Texas Legislature is losing a true statesman. But, our main response is one of profound gratitude for his remarkable tenure. Simply put, Joe Straus represents the best traditions of moral leadership in our Texas state government.

We are confident that he makes this decision in accordance with God’s guidance and his family’s best interests, and we wish him every abundant blessing on the journey ahead.  We thank God for the decency, integrity, and courage with which he has guided the people’s chamber.

But we cannot let this moment pass without sounding this alarm:  we are in deep moral crisis in our beloved State of Texas.

  • We pander to the basest fears, instead of the highest ideals, of the body politic.
  • We sow confusion and division among the people and do so under the delusion that God is on our side.
  • We flaunt clear constitutional mandates with impunity.
  • We lie without consequence and impugn the integrity of decent men and women, all for fleeting political gain,
  • We violate the public trust for personal profit.
  • We advance policies that benefit the few at the expense of the many.
  • We disenfranchise our fellow Texans as if they are not fit for democratic self-determination.
  • We enrich ourselves at the impoverishment of the poorest in our midst.
  • We spout “Lord, Lord” at every turn but have no interest in building the Kingdom of Love and Justice that our Lord commanded.

Though we are too puffed-up to see it, we are now under the judgement of Almighty God.

Let us repent.

Let us repudiate the politics of fear and distrust that has come to mark our public discourse and legislative decision-making.

Let your voice—if need be, the only voice—speak truth, equality, and justice for all Texans against the industry of lies and corruption that has become our politics.

Let us replace Joe Straus with a host of decent men and women dedicated to public service that pursues God’s Common Good for all God’s children.

We are Texans.

We can and must do better.

Denton ISD students give example of what public schools can do…

1At the recent joint conference of the Texas Association of School Administrators and the Texas Association of School Boards, Denton ISD students gave a professional performance par excellence. Click on the link below to see just how well public schools like those in Denton, Texas are teaching our children!

https://player.vimeo.com/video/237426294

Rev. George Mason: Race and Education

Rev. George Mason – Remarks at the Angela Project Conference 2017 – Simmons, Kentucky

On behalf of Pastors for Texas Children

George MasonRacism is not the root of all problems of public education in America, but the problem of racism is rooted in public education in America. It should be the mission of the church of Jesus Christ to call it out and root it out.

Public education is under assault in this country. And whom do you think suffers most when it does?

Racism has always prevented black Americans and other people of color from fully grasping the promise of prosperity our country says is dangling just within reach of every child who studies and works hard. Black American children have never had equal access to quality education, and yet they have been blamed for not achieving anyway.

The heroic efforts of people who founded schools like Simmons are to be lauded. The example of successful black Americans who had to work twice as hard as people like me to get where they are today is remarkable. But neither is any excuse for our complacency. Cherry-picking African Americans to praise so we have moral license to condemn many others who haven’t, because of unjust and unequal educational systems we continue to defend, is a sin against God.

You know the history. From slavery to Jim Crow segregation, white Americans have been afraid to be exposed as frauds in our assertion that we have God-given intellectual superiority. We have clung to a lie about ourselves; and it is idolatry, not theology. We have to repent of the contrived notion of whiteness as rightness that has become operational policy in our approach to public school education. It’s not enough for us to feel sorry for our history; it’s necessary for us to atone for it.

Pastors for Texas Children was formed in 2011 as a mission and advocacy organization to ensure that every child of God in Texas have access to a quality public education. We match churches with local schools, creating mentoring and tutoring relationships with students, and providing needed material support to compensate for our state’s failure to fulfill its constitutional duty to fully fund these schools. We advocate for just laws and adequate budgets.

Currently in Texas, and nationwide, we have a privatizing movement underway that wants to peel off taxpayer dollars to private schools through voucher programs. As always, these educational entrepreneurs see themselves as messianic figures, saving disadvantaged students from educrats and bureaucrats who only want to keep their jobs at the expense of the kids. But that argument is bogus.

Voucher programs take our tax dollars and give them to private schools without public accountability. Charter schools do a similar runaround. Vouchers are a ruse designed once again to privilege the privileged and underprivilege the underprivileged.

The people who cry for accountability all the time only want accountability when other people are in charge. And they employ all sorts of negative narratives to support their claims public schools can’t succeed. It’s either corruption of administrators or mismanagement of funds or the breakdown of the black family that makes education impossible. All these arguments are marshalled to undermine public education in favor of moving money and people toward charter schools and private schools.

The performance data, however, don’t back up the claims of failing public schools and thriving charter schools; nor do state experiments in voucher programs justify the upending of a public education system, which was created to strengthen democracy and reinforce our country’s high ideals of patriotism and citizenship. Something else is going on, and we all know what it is. It’s what it’s always been.

After Brown vs. Board of Education, whites fled the public schools for the homogeneity of private schools. When public schools were forcibly integrated, every form of creativity was called upon to maintain white advantage. Black kids and white kids now went to school together, but black teachers—who were invaluable role models in segregated schools—were let go all over the country. Schools were never ordered by the courts to integrate black teachers. Think of it.

Then consider the code language we use in educational reform. Local control, school-based decision making, and here’s the big one—choice. Sounds good in principle, but so did the lofty notion of states’ rights that was used to justify slavery and segregation. The outcome has hardly been different, because when the people in charge locally only answer to people like them, they choose in their own favor time and again, and nothing changes to equalize opportunity.

In Dallas, 95% of our school district is non-white. 90% of students are on partial or full food subsidy. White flight is rooted in white fright. Yet the one thing proven to improve performance in public schools is real racial and economic integration. Know why? Because children haven’t yet learned how not to love their neighbor. They work together and play together and want each other to succeed. It’s their parents and paid-for politicians who don’t know how to do this.

Cornel West was right when he said that “justice is what love looks like in public.” And public education is a fertile field for justice work. It’s one way white Christians can move from private sorrow over our racist history to public repentance. It’s a beautiful way for us to love our neighbor as ourselves.

Faith and learning, churches and schools, preachers and teachers: all these are organically related. All of us are called to love God and love our neighbor. This is the perfect intersection to keep the Great Commandment.

Charlie Johnson leads Pastors for Texas Children. It was Suzii Paynter’s brainchild to start with, when she worked for another organization back in our state. The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and Fellowship Southwest are working hard to support this work.

Pastors and churches are busy cheering on kids, encouraging teachers and principals and superintendents. We also try to convince politicians of the error of their ways, and when they persist in their perdition, we work to elect new ones who will make good on the promise to all our kids.

You ought to have a chapter in your state too. We can help you. Talk to Suzii or me afterward, or email Charlie.

Here’s the thing: 400 years is long enough, dear Lord! The children of Angela must ever be before our eyes and in our hearts, because they are God’s children and our sisters and brothers. All children’s lives matter only if black children’s lives matter. And one way we can prove we believe that is to make sure the public in the public education system means all the public.

Pray for us, and join us.