Do you know how many school children are homeless in Wichita this year? Do you know whether the number is increasing or decreasing? Do you care? Really—do you care?? Do Christians care? Do churches care? Really??? If you say you care I think you are doing what a lot of people are doing these days—talking out of both sides of your mouth at the same time.
A recent editorial in the Wichita Eagle newspaper, referring to a recent state report, gives some disturbing statistics about the number of children in Wichita and in Kansas that are homeless. The report says that 10,378 public school students in Kansas were homeless sometime during the 2013-1014 school year. That is 1,048, or 11 percent more than the previous year. Much of the increase came from the Wichita School District, which saw its number of homeless students jump by 755, or 46 percent, last year—-from 1,637 to 2,392 students. Wichita also keeps track of younger siblings of families who are homeless and with those younger children added the total number of children who were homeless last year was about 2700.
You would think that the Governor and the State Legislature would be shocked and working to help school districts financially to meet this crisis by coming up with extra funding.. Not so in Kansas, where Governor Brownback and the GOP legislative leaders are working to come up with a way to circumvent a court order to increase state funding for K-12 schools by $500 million in the future budget. As the editorial says: “While they are trying to avoid their constitutional responsibility to suitably finance education, Kansas schoolchildren are wondering where they will sleep tonight.
The effect of homelessness on these children is drastic and probably permanent. They are affected emotionally. Can you imagine the effect of this on their self-esteem? They are often hungry. They often lack such things as winter coats or eyeglasses that are needed. Their teachers often pay for these things out of their own pockets. Yes! Those same teachers that Brownback and the state legislature took away tenure rights from last year!
And what are my fellow Christians and the churches doing about all of this? Are they shocked? Are they demanding that the state come up with the money by rolling back the economically unadvised reduction and erasing of state income taxes for small businesses and independent owners such as doctors and lawyers, etc.? Are the churches advocating for these children? Are they writing and calling their state legislators and the governor and saying, this is not acceptable? Change it!
No—my fellow Christians have been silent—-and in their silence we find there acceptance to the above crisis. You see we talk out of both sides of our mouth. With one side of our mouth we say we want all children to be taken care of and well educated—-while with the other side of our mouth we say we don’t want to have to pay for it! We want children to learn, but we silently assent to the legislature and governor taking Tobacco Funds earmarked for Early Childhood Education in order to balance the budget because of the income tax cuts. With one side of our mouth we say: Parents should be able to take care of their children and with the other side we give silent assent to not raising the minimum wage because that might make our MacDonald burgers more expensive. Kansas is one of only 13 states whose minimum wage is still $7.25 an hour. All others are higher—some as high as $10.00 an hour.
If Christians and the churches really cared about children as they profess to do they would no longer remain silent. Kansas is often referred to as the “belly button of the Bible Belt”. I suggest that Christians and their churches they attend pick up those Bibles and read the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. They will find that the Jesus they claim to name themselves after held children as of ultimate importance. You can read what he said and did concerning children in Matthew 19: 13-15:
Then little children were being brought to him in order that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples spoke sternly to those who brought them; but Jesus said: “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.” And he laid his hands on them and went on his way.” (See also: Luke:18:16; Mark 9:36-37; Mark 10:15; Luke 9:47-48; Luke 18:17)
Do you care about homeless children? Really??? If you do—its time you let it be known to the rest of the world, starting with our governor and GOP state legislature—-AND START DOING SOMETHING ABOUT IT!