Kathryn Lopez

How does an old-establishment, white-guy Republican beat Sen. Barack Obama, the messianic black candidate for "change"? I'll tell you how: He leads a civil rights movement.

President George W. Bush laid some of the groundwork at the White House Summit on Inner-City Children and Faith-Based Schools on April 24, at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, D.C.

At the summit, President Bush said "providing a sound education for every child is one of the really important challenges for America." The president continued: "I happen to believe it is one of the greatest civil rights challenges. I am fully aware that in inner-city America some children are getting a good education, but a lot are consigned to inadequate schools."

And faith-based schools are key to getting many children the education they need and deserve. While touting progress made in public education in his own home state of Texas while he was governor and in the United States since No Child Left Behind was passed, the president highlighted that "Today nearly one-half of children in America's major urban school districts do not graduate on time -- one-half of our children in major urban school districts do not get out of school on time. In Detroit, one student in four makes it out of the public school system with a diploma. When schools like these fail our inner-city children, it is unfair, it's unacceptable and it is unsustainable for our country."

Which is why he who is a fan of compassion used the bully pulpit to provide a platform for a national conversation on innovative approaches to saving faith-based education in the United States. You've no doubt heard about Catholic school closings. According to the White House, between 2000 and 2006, almost 1,200 faith-based schools closed in America's inner cities. The closings have thus far affected nearly 400,000 students in the United States. President Bush calls the alarming numbers a "crisis." At the summit, he said: "They're places of learning where people are getting a good education and they're beginning to close, to the extent that 1,200 of them have closed. The impact of school closings extends far beyond the children that have to leave these classrooms. The closings place an added burden on inner-city public schools that are struggling. And these school closings impoverish our country by really denying a future of children a critical source of learning not only about how to read and write, but about social justice."

Kathryn Lopez

Kathryn Jean Lopez, editor of National Review Online, writes a weekly column of conservative political and social commentary for Newspaper Enterprise Association.