by Jim Melchiorre
I grew up attending Catholic schools operated by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. With her blue-collar background in an Italian-Irish neighborhood dominated by immigrant-influenced Catholicism, my mother would have considered it almost sinful to send her kids to public school.
As an adult, my experience has been quite different. Our three sons attended and graduated from urban public schools in Nashville and New York City. My wife has worked in public school classrooms for fifteen years and I’ve taught, part-time, in an alternative high school. In both Nashville and New York, as well as in the cities I have visited as a journalist covering public education, I’ve seen the same pattern: The educational resources available to students in public schools are almost always directly related to the income levels of the families of the children in those classrooms, which means that public education is not an equal opportunity project.
With that in mind, I am encouraged, no, let me use a stronger word—I am moved--by what we saw during our travels to produce the video segment to which you can link from this page. The segment belongs to our ongoing series Anglican Communion Stories and focuses on the work being done by congregations, and not all of them Episcopal churches, in Boston, Richmond, and New York City. If we’d had more time, we could have found similar stories in Charlotte, Dallas, Cincinnati, Baltimore, and Cleveland. The people you’ll meet in this segment volunteer in classrooms, to be sure, but they also advocate for public school children in state legislatures. And they do this work because they believe it’s an imperative for people of faith.
So please watch and listen closely to what’s happening in this video segment. Note the passion of the people who have made a commitment to better equalize the playing field in public education. With more than fifty million boys and girls enrolled in U.S. public schools—kindergarten through twelfth grade—support for that work, from all of us, is crucial to the future.
Meg McDermott, school and community organizer with St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Boston, spends time with students at the William Blackstone Elementary School whose library has been refurbished through the efforts of the church and the surrounding community.
At a time when public school budget cuts have fallen hard on the performing arts, Trinity Church in New York provides professional musicians to classrooms to enhance music education.
The Micah Initiative in Richmond brings together Jewish, Muslim, and Christian communities to provide some extra assistance, including volunteer teaching assistants, to under-resourced city public schools.
High school students attending a Summer Math Camp at Trinity Wall Street’s community center---Charlotte’s Place---an annual weeklong event which the church schedules to provide extra academic support for city public schools.