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A Goal of College and Heaven: Discussions on Faith-Based Schools

October 4, 2013 3 minute Read by Kerri L. Briggs

The two-pronged goal of making it to “college and heaven” aren’t normally mentioned in the same line but ultimately these are the driving aspirations of the faith-based school leaders we had the pleasure of hosting this week at the George W. Bush Institute in our program, “Sacred Spaces: Faith-Based Schools in American Cities.”

Together with Mayor Mike Rawlings of Dallas and the Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) at the University of Notre Dame, we helped ACE celebrate its 20 years of service, and began a discussion we hope will elevate the role that faith-based schools play in ensuring the vitality of our country.

In opening remarks, Margaret Spellings, president of the George W. Bush Foundation, highlighted the success of NCLB by noting that urban areas are still struggling and that those struggles impact a city. “You can’t have a thriving city without a thriving education system … and that requires a vibrant faith-based school community….From the research, they deliver results, typically at a lower cost, and these schools not only focus on academic strength but personal goodness. We cannot ignore an important and successful school simply because it also happens to promote faith.”

Video from Secretary Spellings’ remarks and each of three panel discussions can be found here: http://www.bushcenter.org/conversation-on-faith-based-schools

There is a tremendous amount of material in these discussions that will inspire and challenge anyone who cares about students today. I was encouraged in particular by these ideas:

  • Scholars of these schools emboldened us to appreciate that faith-based schools are highly skilled at developing committed citizens; a goal that too many believe can only be done by public schools. Further, they portrayed a legal system wherein some government policies towards faith-based schools are in fact discriminatory.   
  • Leaders from Schools that Can Milwaukee, ACE, St. Philips School and Community School, and the Islamic Schools League of America described their results and aspirations for students with a deep conviction that academic instruction is successful when embedded within divine inspiration.  
  • Policy leaders explained the tools they have to support faith-based schools – courage, conviction, and vision– and noted that communicating again and again the power of these schools is a message worth repeating. Each leader, in their own right a committed warrior for kids, understands that the success of a city or state depends on education, and education needs the faith-based sector.

Next week, we’ll hear more about this event from some of the other participants. In the meantime, to wrap up with a line from Dr. Terry Flowers of St. Philips School and Community Schools – “it is okay to pray and okay to get an A.”