Some things are simply wrong. They harm people; they dishonor God. And, it is wrong what we are doing to children in Texas. We are failing to educate many of them during a time in which education is essential to their future well-being.
As Christians, we care not only for our own children and the kids in our church; we have a deep concern for all children because they contain the very image of God. Just as our “pro-life” stance causes us to care for the lives of unborn children, we are called to care for them after their birth. (Christianity Today recently published another article I wrote on this subject, which also deals with the racial and ethnic disparity related to this issue.)
A few things come to mind when I think of caring for children because I have sought to provide these for my own children. We give them protection, nourishing food, supportive environment, spiritual nurture, and education. Leave out any part, and a child will struggle. God, of course, helps many children to overcome deficits in their upbringing, but God also has called Christians to be his literal body of Christ working for Him in this world.
The sad reality is that the children of wealthy parents have much greater education opportunities than the children of poor and middle-class parents. Most of us accept this as just the way it is, but Christians should not. It should bother us that poor children have less educational opportunity than middle-class children, who have less than wealthy children.
We shouldn’t attack the wealthy for providing the best for their children; we should work to help those in the middle and especially those at the bottom of the socio-economic scale. There is so much working against the poorest children; education should not be one of them.
The Dallas Morning News reported last year that Texas schools spent an average $9,559 per student. This puts Texas “well under the national average of $12,040 and ranks Texas 38th among the 50 states and District of Columbia.” That was up from the 46th spot one year before.
Within the state, I thought it would be interesting to compare two districts in the same county. Highland Park Independent School District is in a wealthy community surrounded by Dallas. The district spent an average of $21,169 per student in 2011, according to New America Foundation. This level of spending is great and should be applauded.
The situation is not so good for the Dallas Independent School District, which spent $11,052 per student in 2011, when the state average was $10,307.
One may rightfully argue that dollars do not directly translate to education effectiveness, but how many parents with children attending a high-dollar school would allow their children to attend a low-dollar school? Probably none.
From a Christian perspective, the difference in education provided to rich and poor students should bother us. Since followers of Jesus should care deeply about those in poverty, we should do everything we can to see that the children of the poor get the kind of education that will help them move out of poverty.
In other words, give the Dallas kids a Highland Park education, don’t cut back on the HP kids. If an HP student is worth $21,169, then a Dallas student is worth that much, as well.
Expensive? Yes, but in the long run it will pay off. Better educated people will be better neighbors, citizens, and taxpayers. They will not all grow up wanting to be doctors; some would much rather serve the community and make a living by being a top notch electrician. And some, of course, will thumb their noses at education and say, “It’s not for me.” But at least they had the opportunity. Right now, most students in Texas do not have equal opportunity.
If we spend more of our tax dollars on education, then we ultimately will have to spend less in dealing with some of the social issues caused by poor education.
Of course, for Christians it is not primarily a financial issue. It is a matter of doing what is right and what is honoring of each person created in the image of God. It may not be reasonable to expect our state to educate every child at a Highland Park level, but we surely should be trying to close the gap, especially for the poorest young Texans among us.
(This post originally appeared on the Texas Baptists web site.)