The future of public education will depend on the church.
A new administration’s nominee for Secretary of Education doesn’t usually steal the show. Betsy DeVos made headlines during her prolonged and contentious nomination process which ended in approval today. While some evangelical supporters of homeschooling, private school, and charter school options are celebrating a school choice advocate’s appointment to this all-important role (and a graduate of the evangelical liberal arts school, Calvin College, at that), other conservative Christian public school parents and advocates are disheartened by DeVos’s limited personal history with our nation’s public schools (she has mentored in public schools but not attended, taught, or sent children to public schools).
In light of varying perspectives about this appointment, Christian leaders will need to think afresh about their relationship to local public schools, where more than 90 percent of America’s children are educated. What comes next for these students will dramatically influence the future of our nation and our nation’s global impact.
Christians are already involved in our public schools. Indeed, nearly half of the nation’s public school educators are practicing Christians and 95 percent of Protestant pastors believe Christians should get involved in helping public schools (Barna). Although Christian interest and representation seem to be present, tremendous gaps exist with 50 million public school students not guaranteed access to a high-quality education. Even as high-school graduation rates rise for ethnic minority groups, students of color are still most likely to be funneled into remediation courses. Only one in four Hispanic students were college ready in 2015. The numbers …