advocacy / Education Ministries / Field Personnel

Two Sides of the Coin: Educational Advocacy

Churches across our Fellowship are committed to their local public school. From providing volunteer mentors and reading buddies to donating backpacks full of school supplies or food, CBF churches meet the needs of kids in their community. Our churches are also filled with faithful teachers, coaches, principles, school staff and administrators. These folks have felt a call and dedicated their lives to helping kids reach their God-given potential.

An increasing number of our churches and pastors are feeling a call themselves to pair good works with vocal advocacy in support of public education. Through the growing network of Pastors for Children they are learning about the challenges facing kids and public educators and speaking out in support to their elected officials. This is particularly true in Texas, Oklahoma, Florida, Tennessee, Kentucky, Alabama, and North Carolina.

If your church is already at work supporting your local school, CBF Advocacy encourages you to consider adding advocacy to that commitment by contacting Pastors for Children in your state.

Most recently, longtime CBF field personnel Angel Pittman has embraced educational advocacy as her full-time calling. By both assisting families in need of a personal advocate and advocating for systemic change she is demonstrating the love of Christ in a place that serves so many children in need. Angel has created this excellent resource detailing why Christians should care about public education and compiled a great list of resources.

In her post below, Angel shows the dangers of pervasive privatization efforts which seek to monetize and profit from what should be a public investment in the common good. I encourage you to read this story, pray for the family and millions like them, then be moved to action.

Two Sides of the Coin
By Angel Pittman, Educational Advocate CBF

For me, merging individual support of students and their families with legislative work is just two sides to the same advocacy coin—the following captures a view of my educational advocacy work and why legislative engagement right now is essential.

I recently received a call from a community partner in the south end of Miami-Dade County about a Mom in need of support. Impressed by glossy ads for a small, local private school, she had enrolled her two children in a small private school using one of Florida’s many “scholarships.” These vouchers were specifically for low-income parents to send their children to private schools, and it seemed like a perfect fit. Like all the available schools, this voucher program didn’t pay for the full cost of schooling. Mom earns her living by the hour picking vegetables in the fields and Dad works construction and for years they made it work, thinking this was the best choice for her children.

Then Mom learned painfully what thousands of other Florida parents and education advocates have been saying for years:

1. Scholarship voucher programs never fund educational expenses entirely, unfairly shifting the educational expenses to parents.

2. Parents don’t know if their child is receiving an adequate education because private schools aren’t required to use certified teachers, teach from an approved curriculum, and the children don’t have to take state standardized tests.

In fall of 2019, she says she was sickened and missed a considerable amount of work. This caused her to fall behind on transportation payments for her children to and from school. Then Covid-19 hit and she lost additional income as she was out of work for over a month. By the end of the school year, fees and fines for late payments piled up and the school said they owed over $2,000. Funds completely out of reach for the family.

Fall arrived, and the school wouldn’t allow Mom to register her children for school without payment and wouldn’t release the children’s transcripts either. She went to the local public elementary school, but they couldn’t register the children without transcripts from the previous school. The private school offered a reduced bill of $300 to release the children’s transcript, but that amount was unreachable too as they stretched every dollar. Embarrassed, confused, and frustrated because of more lost workdays, Mom quietly let her two children grade 7, and grade 3, stay out of school.

As 2021 dawned, Mom wanted to try again, and reached out a community agency who contacted me. I hit the phones catching myself up on the situation and within one visit with Mom to the private school got the children’s transcripts and got them registered in their neighborhood traditional public school. But, the loss of months of learning coupled with their inadequate education before this event means that they face immense learning challenges for the next several years.

This trauma could have been avoided if Mom hadn’t been fooled into believing the private school would better her child’s education. But with no oversight over “edvertisements” that promise far more than they can deliver, low-income parents are especially vulnerable to ploys promising better education at private schools.

As I worked with Mom to get her children in the public school, I was simultaneously joining the fight waging in Florida’s capital this week to push back on Senate Bill 48. As the Florida PTA says of SB 48, “This Mega Privatization Bill will outsource the oversight of Florida’s $1 billion voucher program to private organizations that will benefit from the program expansion. There is no local oversight from elected officials. The bill additionally reduces the private organization audits from annually to every three years.”

With Florida lawmakers barring residents from testifying virtually, we need your voice now more than ever. We can’t let more vulnerable parents be duped by privatization efforts that seek to dismantle public education while allowing individuals to profit off of children’s education. We need to protect education as a common good, will you join me?

Read the SB 48 Action Guide* HERE 

HELP SPREAD THE WORD: If you share this post on social media, please use the hashtag #WeSayNotoSB48 

*Created based on the work of the Florida and Miami-Dade PTA. 

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