Linking Lutherans — Education Not Just a Local Issue
By Kent Zelesky
There is never one way to do things. If there were, there would be no need for debate and or discourse. The reality, however, is we do live in a world that is filled with decisions that must be made, and usually involve some kind of discussion. One of the biggest and important discussions that I have had the pleasure of being able to take part in is the ongoing talks about funding Pennsylvania education. However, unlike some groups focused solely on the political aspects of the argument, as the intern for the Lutheran Advocacy Ministry in Pennsylvania, although I am aware of the politics, I have the task of trying to connect education to fellow Lutherans around the state. I had the privilege to travel to three of the ELCA synod assemblies in Pennsylvania. My job was to explain the inequity and inadequacy of our current funding system that is leading to ever-widening gaps between wealthy and poor communities in the Commonwealth.
Martin Luther himself wrote about the importance of public education and advocated for public schools for all – wealthy and poor, boys and girls. “We believe that because all are created in God’s image, all have equal worth and dignity and should be treated accordingly.” (ELCA Social Statement: Our Calling in Education) Pennsylvania’s inadequate system, ranked least equitable in the country, falls far short of recognizing the equal worth and dignity of each child.
While talking to people at the synod assembly I was noticed that, depending on the synod, people had a varying degree of understanding on the funding issue. Lutherans in Pennsylvania understand the importance of education; however, they are challenged to see beyond their own communities because it is so often framed by the media as a local issue. Policymakers frequently pit one part of the Commonwealth against another. If there were a way that all synods could come together and talk about the topic of education, I think that people would find that there are common threads and a real sense of the need to press for fairness in the way we fund our schools.
Kent Zelesky, LAMPa intern, is a communications/conflict resolution major at Juniata College.