Pastors Welcome Rise in Private, Homeschooling in Black Communities

Pastors Welcome Rise in Private, Homeschooling in Black Communities

Pastors leading black church communities are confirming the surge in the number of black families choosing private, small schools, and homeschooling for their children, and welcoming the opportunity for more involvement in K-12 education by black churches.

Pastor Cecil Blye of More Grace Ministries Church in Louisville, Kentucky, told Breitbart News he and his fellow pastors have seen a surge in homeschooling “among families in black churches in Louisville, as well as a push to start private schools and charter schools by black pastors.”

Blye confirmed a recent report by the U.S. Census Bureau that showed homeschooling rates are rising among black families, in which the proportion of homeschooling in the black community increased from 3.3 percent in spring 2020 to 16.1 percent in fall 2020.

In an interview with Breitbart News, Kerry McDonald, a senior education fellow at the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE), explained the data.

“The black homeschool population doubled between 2008-2012, though it was still less representation among the homeschooling community than the black population in the K-12 school age population at large,” she said.

“With what the Census Bureau data showed, is that now there is an over-representation of black homeschoolers compared to black students in the overall K-12 population,” McDonald added. “So, it’s about 16% black students now homeschooling, compared to 15% in the overall K-12 U.S. public school system.”

The Census Bureau data showed overall that 11.1 percent of K-12 students in the nation are now homeschooling, a significant jump from 5.4 percent when school closures went into effect in spring of 2020, and from the 3.3 percent of families who homeschooled prior to the coronavirus pandemic.

Blye, who is also an attorney and serves as general counsel for STAND, Bishop E.W. Jackson’s ministry, noted black pastors in Louisville organized as Kentucky Pastors in Action Coalition (KPAC) and spearheaded passage of school choice legislation in the state.

As Fox19 reported in early April, a supermajority of Kentucky lawmakers overrode Gov. Andy Beshear’s (D) veto of a school choice bill that will allow students to attend private schools or attend other schools outside of their home districts.

A summary of House Bill 563 states it intends to “ensure a school district’s local effort funds follow a student to the district in which the student is enrolled.”

In his veto message, Beshear said the legislation “will harm public education in Kentucky by taking money away from public schools.”

“Yes, I am seeing more black families interested in homeschooling and joining co-ops or small schools, as polls suggest,” Blye told Breitbart News, emphasizing the trend “is allowing for more involvement in K-12 education by black churches.”

“The effect is that black students are skipping grade levels, becoming more proficient and flourishing in these more structured traditional environments,” he noted.

In August, the KPAC pastors announced their endorsement of the federal School Choice Now Act, as the Bluegrass Institute reported.

Pastor Jerry Stephenson, KPAC spokesperson, said:

Better education is the key to helping our African-American children escape generational poverty. But our Black communities suffer with few educational options beyond being trapped in failing schools. With growing achievement gaps, it’s time for school choice opponents to take a backseat and allow for reforms that help all students, including those from minority and low-income homes, to have the same opportunities as their wealthier peers.

Recent polls have confirmed black and Hispanic Americans, as well as whites, overwhelmingly support school choice.

One national poll commissioned by the American Federation for Children in January 2019, found 67 percent of voters support school choice, including 73 percent of Latinos, 67 percent of blacks, and 68 percent of whites.

Another poll released in August 2019 by Education Next found black Democrats approve of targeted vouchers, universal vouchers, and charter schools at 70 percent, 64 percent, and 55 percent, respectively, and Hispanic Democrats approve at 67 percent, 60 percent, and 47 percent.

In February, the Boston Globe reported community cooperative “learning pods” had taken root in black and Hispanic neighborhoods, despite stories that such education options were available only to families of higher income levels.

The Globe observed that “Amaya,” a low-income mother from South Boston whose sons were struggling academically, signed them up for a “learning pod for low-income families.”

“Almost immediately things improved,” the report noted, adding:

The boys’ learning pod, in the gleaming basement of the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in the South End, is one of more than a dozen free pods opened in the fall by Community Learning Collaborative, a fusion of four organizations run by Black and Latino nonprofit leaders serving primarily low-income Black and Latino children.

The Globe piece observed the role of churches in the learning pods for these lower-income families.

“[I]n the last six months they have increasingly popped up in churches, libraries, and recreational facilities to provide safe spaces for students to do their remote learning,” the report stated. “Usually they are funded through a combination of nonprofits, private donations, and discounted family tuition.”

The Rev. David Wright, executive director of BMA Ten Point Coalition, an organization of 30 predominantly black churches in the Boston area, described how his coalition reworked its afterschool program to form full-day learning pods at two of its churches, in Roxbury and Dorchester.

About two dozen K-6th grade students attend the small schools, with families paying a little more than $200 weekly for staffing and other costs.

“That’s what some low-income families receive as a weekly state subsidy for education or afterschool care for school-age children,” the Globe reported. “Church officials have raised funds to help families who don’t have a subsidy and can’t afford the fee.”

Dr. Derek Wilson, pastor of Spirit of Love Worship Center in Louisville, heads up the private Christian school known as Destiny Academy, whose website states its mission is “to enrich every child with the ability to reach their highest goals spiritually, educationally, socially and morally.”

​Wilson told Breitbart News he “wholeheartedly” agrees with opportunities for pastors to become involved again in K-12 education in black communities.

He explained that several years ago his church’s tutorial program discovered two brothers had serious reading difficulties. One boy, who was going into the fourth grade could barely read on a first-grade level, and his brother could not recognize simple words.

“And it was such a tragedy to me because I knew that the criminal justice system had always stated any children in the third grade who could not read or write, they would be a part of that system,” Wilson said. “And so, we made it up in our heart, that the Lord had put it upon us not to wait, because every moment that we wait, would mean” more boys “caught up in the criminal justice system.”

He explained that, despite the billions of dollars local Jefferson County Public Schools received in funding, many black children have remained uneducated and unskilled.

“We’ve seen with the young men that all of a sudden, they end up going out and becoming promiscuous and they have children,” he continued, specifically pointing out the negative effects of the welfare system on the black family in general.

“When Lyndon B. Johnson passed the welfare system, he basically told the African-American woman that we will support you as long as you don’t have a black man in the home,” Wilson asserted.

“Even though they may not have meant it to be, they perpetuated a form of racism, because now it put the African-American woman in the position where she now had to be the head of the house,” the pastor said. “And then if there was a man there, they could not get married because all of a sudden, there would be no financial amenities that would be awarded that family.”

Wilson said many of the young black men who end up in jail are unable to obtain jobs when they are released.

“This sends them back to be parasitic in their own communities, to start selling drugs, and getting involved again in different things that destroy the nuclear fabric of the African-American community,” he explained.

“So, we decided we were going to bring the change,” he said of the decision to become directly involved in K-12 education.

“What we did when we started Destiny Academy’s accelerated Christian education program is take young children like that, who may have learning gaps,” Wilson said. “And we know what those gaps are and begin to bring the children back to their academic levels. And so, we have really seen exponential growth in the children, now going into our fifth year.”

Wilson said he is looking to expand Destiny Academy from the original 11 families to at least 350 students. Currently, he said he and his colleagues are seeking to purchase additional properties for the expansion.

The pastor emphasized Destiny Academy is a “Christian school,” whose mantra is, “Failure is not an option.”

“We have not taken one penny from the government,” he said. “And we believe the Lord and he’s been faithful. If we had waited for the government to say ‘yes’ we never would have gotten started. And so, we just moved out in faith and the Lord’s been faithful. And the people who have actually seen our commitment and our drive have supported the financial well-being of the school.”

Larrita King, a single mother who lives in the Jefferson County Public School district, said she plans to move her children to the private Christian school in the fall because she has evaluated their needs and believes they can have a better education.

“It’s about the betterment of the kids,” she told Breitbart News. “You want their generation to be better than you. When I was growing up, I was the first person to graduate in my family. That was a big step. But, I want better for my kids.”

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[By: Dr. Susan Berry

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