Honorably retired Presbyterian Minister, Olen Bruener, invites the community to the March 26th forum “Supporting Public Education” from 1-3 pm at First Presbyterian Church, Salisbury. He reminds us that our civic duty begins when we “learn about the issues and challenges that our local schools currently face.”

Political philosopher Benjamin Barber declares the importance of public education, not only to children and youth, but to the character of our nation and the heart of our democracy. He states, “Our public schools don’t merely serve the public, but they actually create the public. Public schools are not merely schools for the public, they are institutions where we learn what it means to be a public.”

In keeping with God’s call to love our neighbors as ourselves, and also to act as our brothers’ keepers, we are called to civic duty. We are called upon to show up and speak out on behalf of public education. But first we must learn about the issues and challenges that our local schools currently face.

As citizens of North Carolina, we must investigate why our state’s education ranking dropped significantly over the past 20 years. Could it be tied to the recent court finding (Leandro vs. State of NC) that during those years our state legislature failed to provide adequate, constitutionally mandated funding for a sound public education?

Blaming those who struggle and sometimes fail due to a lack of resources in the richest nation in the world is, it seems, the American way. But let’s take a closer look. As the public Barber speaks of, let’s educate ourselves on the issues and act together to support this most democratic of institutions, our public schools. And as we do, let’s touch the future through policy advocacy and meet direct needs through charity and volunteer work.

None of us expects a garden to flourish without care and attention. Yet we expect the social institutions that create and reflect our community life to go untended, and nonetheless thrive. As a member of Covenant Community Connection, the faith-based subcommittee of the Salisbury Human Relations Council, I invite you to attend the “Supporting Public Education Forum” on March 26, from 1-3 p.m. at First Presbyterian Church in Salisbury. The forum is free and open to the public.

Rev. Olen V. Bruner