Hope on the Hill Shines a Light on the Future of Public Education

The Expectations Project recently organized a Hope on the Hill event, a gathering centered on prayer, worship and action to address education inequality, on Capitol Hill.

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Hip-hop artists Propaganda and Derek Minor were among a group of influential pastors, activists and artists who participated in the Hope on the Hill event in Washington, D.C., on October 17.

Hope on the Hill was “a day of prayer, worship, and action to call on our national elected leaders to protect funding for programs that benefit our most vulnerable students,” according to The Expectations Project, a D.C.-based Christian nonprofit seeking to address issues of education inequality in the United States.

This Capitol Hill gathering was a part of The Expectations Project’s Hope for Students campaign, which was created in response to President Donald Trump’s proposed cuts to the national education budget. The president’s suggested cuts negatively impact summer school programs, literacy initiatives and teacher training programs, among other areas.

“As Americans and Christians, bound together by our love for God and neighbor, we believe God stands with those whom Jesus called ‘the least of these,’ and that the moral test of government is how it treats those who are most often left out and left behind,” the organization explains on its website. “We believe President Trump’s proposed education budget falls short of this moral test. As Congressional negotiations over this budget reach fever pitch this fall it is absolutely essential for people of faith to urge House and Senate leaders to pursue a better path.”

In addition to calling people to converge on Capitol Hill for the event, The Expectations Project also encouraged Christians to sign the Matthew 25 Pledge on Public Education. The pledge calls on the Trump Administration, the U.S. Secretary of Education, and Congress to give moral priority to principles that protect the welfare of the most vulnerable students in the United States.

Zakiya Jackson, National Partnership Director of The Expectations Project and one of the participants of the Hope on the Hill event, commented on the proposed cuts to education at the 2017 Justice Conference earlier this year.

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“When we look at the budget from the new administration and the 13 percent cut in spending for the education department, that really grieves me. And the cuts are for things like nutrition programs, Special Olympics, aid for college students who are low-income. Those are things that are really challenging, and should be challenging, for all of us to think of how to come around and support children in need,” Jackson said.

Likewise, the founder and president of The Expectations Project, Nicole Baker Fulgham, unabashedly called President Trump’s proposed budget cuts “an alarming departure from America’s long-standing commitment to providing a high-quality public education for all our nation’s students, especially those from communities already facing extreme educational disparities.”

Budgets, according to Fulgham, “are moral documents, and the moral test of any nation is how it treats the most vulnerable,” and the resident’s proposed budget fails this moral test.

While Trump’s proposed education budget cuts were shot down by the Senate, students in public schools continue to face deep disparities. Students of color, in particular, lack access to advanced and gifted classes and are more likely to attend schools with police officers and no counselors, according to a CNN report on findings by the Department of Education.

Another 2016 study conducted by the Stanford Graduate School of Education found that low-income students also face similar barriers to academic achievement. One of the study’s researchers argued that “racial segregation is inextricably linked to unequal allocation of resources among schools.”

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