The United States has played a leading role in extending the blessings of education to all children: to girls and boys, to rural and urban communities, to poor and rich families, and to children with a wide range of abilities and disabilities. We are thankful for our nation’s rich educational heritage, and for the tapestry of public, private, religious and home schools available to our children.

The National Association of Evangelicals has long encouraged American Christians to love all children as we love ourselves, to pray for children, educators and public schools, to build constructive relationships with local public schools, and to pursue avenues of support for those involved in public education and to encourage and disciple public school teachers, administrators and students. [1]

While there is much to celebrate in American education — and the Church has made significant contributions to its flourishing — the benefits are not equitably distributed among all children and communities. Violating both biblical justice and the American dream, educational opportunities are provided in abundance to some and substantially denied to others. The benefits skew along racial and income lines. Due to our continuing patterns of residential segregation and neighborhood schools, a child’s zip code has become a more powerful predictor of academic success and lifetime income than either intelligence or hard work. The racial and income divide is evidenced by:

  • 83 percent of Asian American and 78 percent of white students graduate from high school in four years, compared to 57 percent of African American and Latino/Hispanic students; [2]
  • 37 percent of African American fourth-graders cannot perform basic math skills, compared to only 10 percent of white students; [3] and
  • Students from low-income communities are three grade levels behind their peers in wealthier communities by the time they reach fourth grade. [4]

Jesus showed love and concern for children — welcoming them warmly even when others thought he should be busy with adults. Some of his sternest warnings were reserved for those who would cause little ones to stumble. Jesus pointed to children as examples of faith. He used a young boy’s generosity to teach the multitudes about trusting in God’s provision.

The biblical prophets spoke clearly about God’s concern for poor and oppressed people, including children who suffered neglect and abuse at the hands of the rich and powerful.

To address the crisis of education inequity, we call on evangelicals to:

  • Examine the educational outcomes in their own and surrounding communities, particularly focusing on areas where children are not receiving a fair opportunity to fully develop their God-given talents and to get a great education;
  • Ask how their churches and members can serve the most vulnerable children and those who work with them through prayer, volunteering and providing other support;
  • Educate themselves about the policies of their state and local school systems, and consider supporting candidates to governing boards who will promote greater efforts to help the neediest students catch up; and
  • Support school reform proposals that will benefit all children, and especially those with the greatest needs.

We call on policy makers to:

  • Prioritize the improvement of the poorest performing schools serving the neediest students;
  • Allow all parents to choose the education that best meets their children’s needs, including choices among public schools as well as access to private and home school options with equitable funding through vouchers, scholarships and other methods;
  • Promote education policies that provide freedom, autonomy and equitable support to private and home schools — whether religious or secular — that often produce excellent educational results while also excelling in addressing the challenge of moral development; and
  • Prioritize the care, nurture and support of young children during the critical period of brain development, including establishment of high quality programs for children whose parents are unable to provide for all of their physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual needs.

[1] “Declaration for Public Education,” National Association of Evangelicals, 1998, (accessed July 11, 2016).

[2] “Diplomas Count 2011: Beyond High School, before Baccalaureate,” Education Week , June 2011, (accessed July 18, 2016).

[3] “Closing the Gaps Data Points,” Education Trust, October 2009.

[4] Donald J. Hernandez, “Double Jeopardy: How Third-Grade Reading Skills and Poverty Influence High School Graduation,” Annie E. Casey Foundation, April 2011.