Save the date: The next Lutheran Day at the Capitol will be held on Monday, April 18, 2016.

2015 Lutheran Day at the Capitol Highlights

Over 150 Lutherans gathered on Monday, April 27 at Trinity Lutheran Church, Camp Hill and at the Pennsylvania State Capitol in Harrisburg for worship, learning, advocacy and action. Lutheran Day at the Capitol lists up our baptismal call to ministry in the public square and the unique voice of Lutheran Christians addressing hunger and poverty.

Our 2015 theme of  “Homecomings”, focused learning and advocacy on issues that make our Commonwealth a better and more just place to call home.

Read the keynote address “Home, to the Glory of God”  by the Rev. Dr. Kristin Johnston Largen, Interim Dean and Associate Professor of Systematic Theology at the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Gettysburg.

Resources from the Day:

1. Building on the Success of the State Housing Trust Fund

2. Enacting a Fair and Adequate School Funding FormulaDSC_2367

3. Hunger-Free Lancaster County

4.Rep Brian Cutler’s Presentation on Empowering Opportunities  Project

5. Fair Education Press Conference

LAMPa held a press conference in the Capitol Rotunda, moderated by Policy Council Chair Pastor Scott Schul and including the following remarks:

Bishop James Dunlop, Lower Susquehanna Synod

We gather today as the Lutheran Church to Lift the importance of fair and adequate funding for public schools in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania

The calling as Lutherans in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America in education is closely tied to a Lutheran understanding of vocation. While many understand vocation as a job or career or as the call to be a pastor or priest, Lutherans understand vocation as a calling from God that encompasses all of life for all God’s children. In gratitude for God’s love, we live out our vocation in our places of responsibility in daily life—home, congregation, work place, neighborhood, nation, and global society.

So it is critical for us to strive with others to ensure that all have access to high-quality education through fair and adequate funding that develops personal gifts and abilities and serves the common good in both Church and society.

The necessity, capacity, love, and delight to learn, teach and know come from God.  Human beings are blessed with the gifts of memory, self-consciousness, and anticipation. We marvel at the divinely given abilities to communicate, reason, explore new realities, discover meaning and truth, create art, technology, and complex societies, enjoy beauty, and discern what is right and good. We approach education with awe, and wonder, and gratitude to God.From the time of the Reformation in the 16th century, the Lutheran church has been a teaching and learning church. Martin Luther, a university professor, pursued the reform of education on all levels as an integral part of his reform of Church and society. With his teaching on vocation, Luther understood the Christian life to be one of service to God and neighbor in one’s everyday places of responsibility; education equipped Christians for this vocation. He taught that education served the common good of Church and society: In a move unusual for his day, he taught that schools for all both those who were wealthy and those who were poor, both boys and girls—were necessary so that the civil community would have wise and good rulers.

He wrote in his appeal to city governments to establish schools. “A city’s best and greatest welfare, safety, and strength consist in having many able, wise, honorable and well-educated citizens,”

In light of the essential role of public education in serving the common good of the society and in the face of continuing concern for the effectiveness of some public schools, the lack of equitable access for many students to high-quality schools, and the often inadequate provision of financial resources, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America affirms and advocates for the equitable, sufficient, adequate, and effective funding of public schools.

If we neglect our responsibilities for the education of all people in earthly matters and civil righteousness, we close our eyes to God’s continuous creating activity and fall short in loving our neighbor and serving the common good. Education in both society and Church is God-pleasing.

All of our young people are created in the image of God, all have equal worth and dignity and should be treated accordingly.
We, as a Commonwealth, must address disparities, acknowledge the added barriers to learning caused by poverty. Specifically addressing negative effects of poverty and discrimination and inequity in funding.

As churches in the communities, we work to alleviate suffering and hunger for the poorest among us. Food pantries, gardens and meal programs work to help the hungry. But we must also change those things that are the sources of poverty, rather than just treating the symptoms. Fair and adequate funding for education is a first step. Our Lutheran heritage and our understanding of God’s good creation call us to action.
Thank you.

Bishop Claire Burkat. Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod

The area I serve, the five counties of Southeastern Pennsylvania has the distinction of having the HIGHEST SPENDING district per student and also the HIGHEST POVERTY district. Even so, we in SEPA Synod care not only about our own funding disparity in the Greater Philadelphia area but also about all the school districts in the whole state of PA.

We want bi-partisan support from legislators to make fair and adequate funding of our students’ education a PRIORITY now. We need to agree on a fair funding formula for education in the COMMONWEALTH. Let’s live up to our name-The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Right now Philadelphia is enjoying a burst of Millenials moving into the city. For that we are thankful.  But as they make plans to start families, they often move out of Philadelphia to suburban counties where the educational resources are more optimal and robust.

We along with many business leaders are also concerned about the future of students graduating from High Schools who are not prepared for the work force or prepared for college because of insufficient resources to help them succeed.

If the financial cost seems high -the real cost of underperforming and underfunded schools is a lifetime of deficit in terms of reading, writing, computer skills, and pay potential. We want our children to be prepared for citizenship as adults for their lifetime, which could be another 80 years! The cost of NOT properly educating poor and marginalized students is very HIGH, and lasts a lifetime.

A personal note: I grew up in a working class neighborhood in Queens NY. My father had a 9th grade education and my mother was educated in an orphanage.
There is no way I could have qualified or afforded a college education if not for an excellent public school education. Elementary, Middle School, High school and College.

Please let’s join forces here in PA to assure every child the education he and she needs for a lifetime.

Bishop Ralph Jones, Northwestern Pennsylvania Synod

Bishop Burkat and I are here to speak from the diverse contexts of Pennsylvania—from cities to open spaces. We are representatives of seven geographical regions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the bishops who serve in those regions which we call synods. The root of the word synod means to walk or gather together.

We gather today to share our concern for a Fair School Funding Formula based upon accurate data to provide table support adequate to meet our expected academic standard. Together, we are responsible for the investment due every child in Pennsylvania to be prepared as a well-educated citizen. We hold one another accountable to be effective and efficient in this task.

The development of a Fair School Funding Formula is a complex task requiring the consideration of many factors. Across much of Northwestern Pennsylvania, we are challenged by a limited tax base, low property values, below average household income, and a low population density. Significant tracts of land are state and federal lands—state forest, state parks, state hunting grounds, state correction facilities, national forest, federal correction facilities, former test sites for jet engines and nuclear energy. Most of our school districts exceed forty percent of the student population coming from households living below the poverty level. Two counties experience fewer than seventeen residents per square mile. Three of the five least populated counties are on our territory—Cameron, Potter and Forest. Thirty-two percent of the population of Forest County resides in group living situations such as the Forest Correctional Institution.

My own educational experience was within a low student population rural school district. Thirty-five students graduated in my class. Three students participated in the Trigonometry class. Six students participated in the Physics class. The Social Studies, Mathematics, and Science departments were comprised of one teacher for each department. Low student census creates special challenges for such districts.

Our Church is committed to partner with local and state leadership to increase the awareness for the needed Fair School Funding Formula. Our congregations are engaged with local schools to provide needed clothing, school supplies, volunteers, and after school programs with tutors.

Our call today is to focus our attention upon a Fair School Funding Formula that will provide for the just distribution of resources across the Commonwealth.

Tracey DePasquale

It is time for a fair education funding formula.
Every public school must have the resources necessary to enable every child to meet state academic standards, be prepared for post-secondary success, and grow into adults who are productive, knowledgeable, and engaged in their communities.
It is time for Pennsylvania to adopt an education funding system based on equity, adequacy, accuracy, predictability and accountability.

Accountability — For good stewardship of gifts and resources. This also means accountability to one another. The new system must operate based on shared fiscal responsibility among the local community, the state, individuals, and commercial taxpayers, recognizing the differing levels of local funding available and the relationship between adequate financial support and student outcomes.

Predictability and Stability – The system must be transparent, sustainable, long-range and broad-based so that school leaders can plan effectively and wisely.

Accuracy and Adequacy – Money matters, particularly when it comes to educating children living in poverty. Funding must be based on real costs necessary to meet state academic standards and must use accurate, reliable, verifiable, and current data that addresses district needs such as sparsity, enrollment, tax effort and charter school impact. It must also address student needs related to English proficiency, poverty and the many associated challenges that create barriers to learning.

We as a commonwealth have established standards which we deem necessary for graduates and communities to thrive, yet do not provide the resources necessary for ALL children to meet them.
This is unfair. It is unjust. It is wrong, and it must change.

Today, a test of fairness for Pennsylvania’s education funding would receive an F – for FAILING. Our support for our children’s success is too often dictated by his or her address. In the language of our assessment system, it would be labeled BB — Below Basic.

We commend Governor Wolf and the Basic Education Funding Commission for recognizing that the system is broken, for their willingness to take on this most important task and the dedication with which they have approached it.
However, there are many in Harrisburg who say that while they understand the significance of this task, they believe that their voters or their colleagues only care about their own districts.

Today, we come from those many school districts and legislative districts to remind ourselves that when we look at our neighbor –and our neighbor’s children — we should see the face of God.

Today, we come from across our state to say to lawmakers that we believe our children’s futures are bound up together. And we call on all across the commonwealth to do the same.

Let us focus on our common home, our common address – Pennsylvania. In doing so, we can achieve an A for Advanced on the standard of fairness.