United Methodist Advocate for Public Schools
As United Methodists, we must do what we can to support and strengthen our Public Schools to give our children and our society the best opportunity for success.
Who We Are
Methodists have always placed a high priority on education. John Wesley founded Sunday Schools to teach folks how to read their Bibles and to give children skills to get out of the mines and factories.
As the settlers pushed their way westward, Methodists left in their trail public schools (many times meeting in the local Methodist church), and colleges to train the teachers and preachers needed to educate and bring the Good news to the frontier.
In the 20th century, our denomination saw that strengthening our public schools was essential to a healthy democracy. As the Civil Rights struggle brought justice to our schools the United Methodist Church understood the value of broadening all students’ experience.
In North Carolina, our Public Schools are being challenged by reduction of funding, loss of respect of the teaching profession, and re-segregation. As United Methodists, we must do what we can to support and strengthen our Public Schools to give our children and our society the best opportunity for success.
In 2016, both of our Annual Conferences expressed the need for our churches to act as advocates on the state and local levels on behalf of our Public Schools.
Education Task Force Statement
WNCC PUBLIC EEDUCATION TASK FORCE FINDINGS
The United Methodist Church 2012 Book of Resolutions includes Resolution #5051 – Public Education and the Church. This resolution’s origin was included in the 2000 Book of Resolutions. It was amended and readopted in 2004 and readopted in 2008. Sections of that resolution are stated below.
The United Methodist Church has issued statements supportive of public education, and now at a time when public education has become a political battleground, the church is called to remember, first and foremost, the well-being of all God’s children. Education is a right of all children and is affirmed by Scripture which calls us to ‘train children in the way they should go’ (Proverbs 22:6).
The public school is the primary route for most children into full participation in our economic, political, and community life. As a consequence of inequities in our society, we have a moral responsibility to support, strengthen, and reform public schools. They have been, and continue to be, both an avenue of opportunity and a major cohesive force in our society, a society becoming daily more diverse racially, culturally, and religiously.
A new phenomenon in our society is “re-segregating of communities” which further diminishes the effectiveness of public schools. Most tellingly, the schools that offer the least to their students are those serving poor children, among which children of color figure disproportionately, as they do in all the shortfalls of our common life.
We do affirm our conviction that public funds should be used for public purposes.
The issue of the public funding of education in North Carolina has taken the national spotlight in recent years. Multiple cuts in the state budget have taken a toll on school systems and teachers across the state. There has been a loss of teachers as they turn to other states for employment.
- “North Carolina has had a teacher turnover problem severe enough that the legislature last year passed a law to raise the salaries of some teachers to try to entice more to stay. But according to new state data, that rate rose in 2014-2015, and more teachers are leaving the state to teach elsewhere this academic year than last year.” (The Washington Post, October 21, 2015, “North Carolina teacher exodus rises – despite efforts to halt attrition”)
- “Despite some state action to reduce teacher attrition, new data show little or no return on such efforts, with turnover now at the highest rate in at least five years, at nearly 15 percent of teachers. In 2010, turnover was at just over 11 percent. In August 2014, Gov. Pat McCrory, a Republican, signed into law a budget deal that overhauled the salary schedule, introducing a step system that gave an average 7 percent salary increase to teachers as a way to improve retention. However, the heftiest raises went to new teachers, who tend to have higher attrition, while more-established veterans received raises as small as 1 percent…A decade ago, North Carolina paid teachers better than half the other states in the country. The state now ranks among the bottom fifth in terms of teacher salary, according to state and federal data.” (Education Week, October 13, 2015, “Teacher attrition continues to plague North Carolina”)
The disparities of average teacher salaries in North Carolina compared to the national average have increased over time. (Source: “Highlights of the North Carolina School Budget – February 2016” produced by Information Analysis Division of School Business, North Carolina Department of Public Instruction; available at ncpublischools.org)
- In 2001-2002 average North Carolina teacher salaries were $42,680, which was 95.57% of the national average of $44,655.
- By 2014-2015 average North Carolina teacher salaries were $47,792, which was 83.29% of the national average of $57,379.
Therefore, we call upon local churches in the North Carolina Annual Conference and the Western North Carolina Annual Conference to support public education by:
- Honoring teachers for the crucial work they do with young people; and advocating for appropriate salaries commensurate with their vital role in society;
- Encouraging young people of our congregations to enter the teaching profession;
- Insisting that all curricula present the best textbooks and teaching at all levels, acknowledging that we encourage children to read, to imagine, and to understand the many wonders of God’s creation;
- Advocating for the inclusion of differently-abled students in our classrooms, and ensuring that teachers have the special training needed to meet these children’s needs;
- Advocating at the state and local level for adequate public school funding and equitable distribution of state funds; and supporting efforts to end unjust educational disparities between rich and poor communities;
- Learning about public school issues, offering candidate forums during school board elections, and educating church members about local funding ballot issues and about the historical role of churches in creating and supporting public schools;
- Advocating for strengthened teacher training, for enhanced professional development for teachers and administrators, and for policies that assign teachers only to disciplines in which they are fully prepared, to classes whose size encourages individualized assistance, and to schedules that give teachers time to prepare or consult with other teachers, students, and parents;
- Advocating for universal, early, and quality preschool education for all children; and
- Advocating for public education as a basic human right; and not relying solely on school fund-raising and state alternative revenues, such as gambling, for financial support.
The Annual Conferences of both the North Carolina And Western North Carolina Conferences in 2016 approved committees to work jointly to develop ways that these values on public education can be promoted and communicated through our churches, districts, and Conferences to the leaders of North Carolina’s government.
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Engaging our Churches
Get involved! Below is a sample letter for you to use as a starting point for you and your church.
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A good article on the struggles North Carolina’s schools are facing:
Recommended reading by Karl Smith:[google-drive-embed url=”https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B2O4Wn9Min_BOG1iWDFBVGVNYjg/view?usp=drivesdk” title=”How Our Basic Public Investments Pay for Themselves.docx” icon=”https://ssl.gstatic.com/docs/doclist/images/icon_10_word_list.png” newwindow=”yes” style=”normal”]
A great site with lots of information and resources:
Read bills and find contact information for your Senator and Representative