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Edgar, Edelman, Welty at Good Schools Pennsylvania VigilDecember 12, 2001, HARRISBURG, Pa. – To eliminate poverty, be sure all children get a good education, religious leaders asserted at an interfaith prayer vigil for public education reform, held in Harrisburg, Pa., Dec. 12 at the Pennsylvania State Capitol.

The Rev. Dr. Robert W. Edgar, General Secretary of the National Council of Churches, and Marian Wright Edelman, Founder and President of the Children’s Defense Fund, led the vigil to bring national attention to the severe disparity of educational opportunities available to poor children in Pennsylvania.  More than 200 national and state religious leaders participated.

Education Week rated Pennsylvania as one of the eight worst states in the nation when it comes to disparity in educational opportunity, according to Good Schools Pennsylvania, which sponsored the vigil.  Pennsylvania’s per student expenditure is the 15th lowest in the nation.  The state supports 35 percent of local education expenses on average, down from a 50-50 state-local partnership in the early 1970s.

Speaking of the NCC’s mobilization against poverty, which aims to reduce U.S. poverty measurably by the end of the decade, Dr. Edgar said, “Our present commitment to mobilize to address poverty once again brings to the forefront the national necessity of establishing and maintaining public education that brings thorough and efficient education to all children.  I believe that Good Schools Pennsylvania offers a unique model to our nation of how we might advocate for funding equity and quality education for all children.”

In 1999, the NCC adopted a new comprehensive policy statement on public education, entitled, “The Churches and the Public Schools at the Close of the 20th Century.”  “In keeping with the recommendations that were a part of that action,” Dr. Edgar said, “the Council has sought to be conscientious in its efforts on behalf of public education.”

Said Ms. Edelman, “I stand here today on these steps because it is time for Pennsylvania to make the right moral and political choices for all our children.  Our children are not just another commodity to be written off or squandered.”

Sommers and McClurg at Good Schools Pennsylvania VigilMs. Edelman and Dr. Edgar – former U.S. Representative from Pennsylvania’s Seventh Congressional District who also served as a United Methodist parish pastor in Pennsylvania – were joined by, among many others, the Rev. Gordon Sommers (Moravian) and the Rev. Patricia McClurg (Presbyterian), both former NCC Presidents (pictured at left), and the Rev. Dr. Eileen Lindner, NCC Deputy General Secretary.

Also, Rev. Roy Almquist, Bishop, Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Rt. Rev. Charles Bennison, Diocesan Bishop, Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania, Rt. Rev. Michael W. Creighton, Bishop, Episcopal Diocese of Central Pennsylvania, Rev. Peter Weaver, Bishop, Philadelphia Area of the United Methodist Church, and Father Jack O’Malley, representing the Association of Pittsburgh Priests.

This prominent group gathered in Harrisburg because they believe that comprehensive school reform must include adequate funds that are equitably distributed, using proven educational programs, a set of common sense standards for excellence and the accountability measures necessary for every child to succeed.

The December Good Schools Pennsylvania interfaith monthly prayer vigil was the fifth since June, and was the first to bring in national leaders to stand with Pennsylvania religious leaders to highlight the breadth of national support for public education reform.

Good Schools Pennsylvania is a non-profit coalition of grassroots, statewide and national organizations seeking to mobilize parents, students and concerned citizens to advocate for improved public education.

The National Council of Churches is the nation’s leading ecumenical organization.  Its 36 Protestant, Orthodox and Anglican member communions comprise 50 million adherents in 140,000 congregations.


Photo Captions:

Top: (Front Row, Left to Right - Robert W. Edgar, Marian Wright Edelman, Marcel Welty (NCC Research and Planning Projects Coordinator), flanked by more than 200 U.S. and Pennsylvania state religious leaders
Middle: Gordon Sommers, Patricia McClurg, both former NCC presidents

Photo Credit: Good Schools Pennsylvania

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