Clergy preach action at ‘Support Public Education’ forum – Reuters

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SALISBURY — There was a lot of talking and listening at Covenant Community Connection’s “Supporting Public Education” forum on Saturday afternoon, but the event focused on action.

The Covenant Community Connection, a denominational sub-committee of the Salisbury Human Relations Council, hosted the forum at First Presbyterian Church. More than 40 people gathered to hear two speakers share different ways community members can take action to improve public education both locally and across the state.

“The hope and intent of this forum is to plant the seeds of how charity and advocacy can be nurtured in congregations and in the community to meet the growing needs of our community and our youth,” said said Susan Lee, president of the Covenant Community. Login.

Reverend Suzanne Miller, founder of Pastors for North Carolina Children, shared how Rowan County residents can get involved with the organization’s letter-writing campaign to encourage state legislators to distribute funds to schools in accordance to the Leandro plan.

Reverend Vincent Howell of Hood Theological Seminary shared insights and lessons on how an interfaith organization he founded and leads in Clemmons is supporting public schools through collaboration.

Leveraging Leandro

Miller, who started Pastors for North Carolina Children in 2018, said public schools in North Carolina are “significantly” underfunded. She wants people to join her organization’s quest to change that.

From 2005-06 to 2020-21, funding for public schools has increased from $6.86 billion to $9.88 billion. Those numbers can be misleading, Miller said, because funding has actually declined 6% since 2008-09 when staff benefits, salaries and enrollment increases are taken into account.

“Schools are growing and funding is not keeping up,” Miller said. “So what we’re seeing is that our schools aren’t failing, our schools are significantly underfunded and that’s a huge, huge problem.”

While funding has dwindled, Miller said unmet school construction costs have risen by $5 billion to $12.8 billion since 2015.

“We know that doesn’t even reflect the real need because some districts have stopped reporting some of the needs because they know they will never be met,” Miller said. “It’s a travesty. It’s morally wrong that we don’t provide our children with what they need to learn.

To provide public schools across the state with the money they need, Miller said his organization is advocating for lawmakers to implement the Leandro Plan and disburse the funding. The Leandro Plan is an eight-year timeline of funding and policies resulting from the Leandro court case against the State of North Carolina.

In 1994, a consortium of plaintiffs made up of families and five impoverished school districts filed a lawsuit alleging that the state had failed to provide adequate levels of funding to districts to provide a solid basic education for all students. .

Although the North Carolina Supreme Court has twice ruled in favor of plaintiffs, this has not translated into additional funding, as lawmakers have pushed back against the idea that courts can order the state to return funding to line items.

In November, Judge David Lee ordered the state to hand over $1.7 billion in funding as a starting point to implement the recommendations of the eight-year plan, but the appeals court blocked the order . The appeals court agreed that the money was necessary but denied that Lee had the power to force the state to make appropriations in its budget.

The state Supreme Court decided last week that it would hear the case again. Additionally, Chief Justice Paul Newby replaced Lee, a Democrat, with Michael Robinson, a Republican, who will now be the trial judge overseeing the case. Robinson will determine whether to modify Lee’s order based on the state budget.

As the Leandro case continues to unfold, Pastors for North Carolina Children has launched a letter-writing campaign called Mission Amplify that encourages people to reach out to their state lawmakers and voice their support for the distribution. funds in line with the Leandro plan.

The additional funding included in the plan could have major implications for Rowan County, Miller said. According to Every Child NC, this would mean $50 million in additional funding per year, a 42% increase, by 2028.

“Every time he’s been in court, he’s won,” Miller said. “But we need the legislator to do what is necessary for our children.”

Miller said his organization is working to assemble Mission Amplify “teams” across the state to send postcards to each of the state’s 120 Representatives and 50 Senators. Miller said people can join the effort by visiting pastorsforncchildren.org or following the recommendations of the organization Facebook page. North Carolina Children’s Pastors will be hosting several training dates in the coming months.

Miller handed out postcard writing packets at the event.

Value in collaboration

Shortly after moving to Clemmons five years ago, Howell met with community education officials to identify ways in which the church he led at the time, Centenary United Methodist Church, could better support public education.

The result was the creation of the Interfaith Alliance of Clemmons & Lewisville, an organization dedicated to “working with local schools for student success.”

Howell, now director of the Congregational Faith & Learning Center at Hood Theological Seminary, explained how the organization has been able to implement this motto over the past few years.

The Interfaith Alliance began by identifying basic needs in the school system, including clothing, food, mentorship and orientation for graduates planning for life after high school.

Howell said the trick is to partner with other faith-based organizations, businesses and educational institutions to tackle collaborative projects. The Interfaith Alliance meets with these stakeholders on a monthly basis, Howell said.

“There is value in the collaboration between churches, the faith community, schools and the wider community that will impact future generations,” Howell said. “We cannot ignore the importance of the intersection of faith community and how we impact the lives of our young people.”

Through these collaborative efforts, Howell said the Interfaith Alliance collects and donates clothing to students and their families, provides food to several schools, runs a mentorship program in conjunction with Big Brothers Big Sisters, runs distance learning sites, organizes film screenings to promote mental health. and hosts teacher appreciation events.

Howell said the models used by the Interfaith Alliance could apply to other communities, including Rowan County.

Lee said the Covenant Community Connection would meet again soon to discuss the information provided by Miller and Howell and determine next steps.

Shonda Hairston of Rowan-Salisbury Schools called on people to use the information.

“What can we do? What action may be behind these thoughts and feelings?” said Hairston, Executive Director of Elementary Schools for RSS. and discussions, but above all action.

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