United Methodist Women advocate for improvement in schools
August 2, 2005
|A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose
Veta Daley (right) and Imogene Steele discuss challenges schools face during a public education summit.
By Linda Green*
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) —Democracy and economic well-being in the
United States depend on education, the foundation on which many
possibilities are built, said a former college professor and leader of
United Methodist Women.
Jan Love, chief executive of the Women’s Division of the United
Methodist Board of Global Ministries, was among the speakers focusing on
education and improving America’s schools during a July 29-31 summit in
One hundred-fifty women from rural, urban and suburban settings, with
various experiences in the education system, engaged in conversations
to set direction for the 1 million United Methodist Women in the United
States and to give them tools to advocate for public education.
The summit brought together United Methodists involved in public
education and speakers from the Parent-Teacher Association, the National
School Board Association and the United Church of Christ’s Public
Education and Witness Office to offer information and engage
participants in outlining the roles all must play to increase the
quality of public education in the United States.
At the conclusion, the participants provided the Women’s Division
with “concrete outcomes” of their discussions that outlined individual
responsibilities and recommendations for how the entire United Methodist
Women’s organization can be a more effective advocate for education and
They recommended creating an advocacy network for grassroots work
among the women from various religious and civic spectrums and laying
the foundation for skills training for future events to equip United
Methodist Women for work in local settings around public education
Educators, including Susan Dalton, coordinator of the Tennessee
Education Association, provided updates on “No Child Left Behind,” a
bill signed into law by President Bush in 2002, that holds the country’s
90,000 public schools accountable for increasing the achievement of the
nearly 50 million children and adolescents enrolled in them.
Standardized test scores measure the students’ achievement.
Throughout the summit, teachers, principals and administrators discussed
the anxieties and pressures they are feeling three years after the
bill’s passage, as well as its impact on education in the United States.
|A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose
Jan Love (center) visits with speakers Susan Dalton (left) and Jan Resseger during an education summit in Nashville, Tenn.
Jan Resseger, a member of the National Council of Churches and the
United Church of Christ’s Justice and Witness Ministries, recounted
conversations she has had with public school teachers who not only
shared their pain about NCLB, but also voiced justice concerns resulting
from the act.
“They told me how painful it is for your school to be labeled a
failure when you are doing the best you can in a career you thought you
loved and when many of your students are thriving,” she said. “Then they
told me how much they worry about the children who are so far behind
and who are being identified as the cause of their school’s failure.”
Dalton outlined 10 changes she said would improve “No Child Left
Behind,” including flexibility at the center to make education better
Former leaders of United Methodist Women — Mai Gray and Sara Shingler
— provided a historical overview of the organization’s involvement in
public education, both domestically and internationally.
The education summit, part of the third phase of the United Methodist
Women’s Campaign for Children, sought to “answer certain questions
like, ‘What can we really do to impact education in our country?’ and
‘What are the tools we need to impact it?’” said Julie Taylor, the
division’s executive for children, youth and family advocacy.
The campaign, renewed in 2002, focuses on advocacy in public
education and bringing awareness to the United Methodist Church that
every child should receive good quality, free and accessible education.
The 2004 General Conference readopted a 2000 resolution, “Public
Education and the Church,” calling on all United Methodist
constituencies to support public education and become better informed
about the needs of public schools in the communities and in the country
as a whole. Since 1976 each General Conference has adopted and
reaffirmed resolutions calling the United Methodist Church to impact
education in society.
Each of the summit’s speakers and participants in small group
discussions echoed the 2004 resolution’s proclamation that “public
school is the primary route for most children into full participation in
our economic and community life.”
Love, in her keynote address, called access to basic skills through
publicly funded education a part of God’s promise of abundant life. The
issues around making quality public education available to all are the
result of “our unwillingness to make it work! We know a variety of ways
to fix what’s wrong with public education. The problem is we lack the
will,” she said.
|A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose
Educator Susan Dalton provides updates on the “No Child Left Behind” law.
“The issue of public education is relevant to us not only as women of
faith who know the saving power of Jesus Christ, but also as citizens
of the United States who know the liberating experience of democracy and
freedom,” Love said. “I believe the crisis of public education is not
only an issue that goes to the heart of our Christian faith and
faithfulness. I believe it is also a struggle for the soul of our nation
and our world.”
Faith speaks to public morality and the ways that compassion and
justice should be brought into the civic life of a nation, Resseger
said. “Surely, this call for justice is relevant to needed reform in
America’s public schools, for public education is the largest civic
institution in the United States,” she said.
As speakers discussed the justice concerns in NCLB, the participants
in plenaries, small groups and outside conversations, talked about the
educational inequities that exist from community to community and state
Resseger, who is also a member of a NCC-UCC public education task
force, has visited schools across the country to assess segregation and
uneven school funding, language and cultural issues and the challenges
facing rural schools, to “become educated about and work to eliminate
systemic barriers to excellent public education for all.”
She said the task force “believe(s) our society must set about far
more than merely demanding that schools improve, testing students to see
if they are improving and punishing the school districts that cannot
seem to improve.” There is a belief, Resseger said, that if no child is
to be left behind, Congress should take major steps to improve the
school experience for those who are being left behind.
“Simply put, in a society that depends upon information, some
American children are given better access than other children,” she
said. “Inequity in educational opportunity is a significant injustice
because education is the gatekeeper to opportunity.” Resseger and Love
agreed that educational injustice is not easy to solve.
“We are called to justice as a public expression of our love for God and all the children whom God has created,” Resseger said.
*Green is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn.
News media contact: Linda Green, (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
United Methodist women meet to advance public education
Food and nutrition in U.S. schools
Women focus on faltering education systems
Educator encourages advocacy for school reform
Public Education: A Mission Study
Campaign For Children
Great Public Schools for Every Child
Who Cares About Children
No Child Left Behind
Women’s Divison Annual Report