In 2015, in the wake of Baltimore City’s uprising caused by Freddie Gray’s death while in police custody, clergy across the city engaged in a series of meetings to strategize how to help Baltimore’s youth. Those efforts eventually waned, but smaller groups mobilized to affect change in their individual communities. Pastor Michael Phillips of Kingdom Life Church assembled a group of three Baltimore faith leaders to form what would eventually become Faith Leaders for Excellent Schools (FLES). This group would seek to implement change through policy with the help of Jenese Jones, former Executive Director of MarylandCAN. After a very active legislative session and working with MarylandCAN on various policy efforts, it was evident that FLES was a force for change and the right messenger to galvanize the grassroots efforts in Baltimore city. In the summer of 2017, FLES was thrusted into the Baltimore education spotlight after Governor Larry Hogan appointed Pastor Michael Phillips to the Maryland State Board of Education. The organization was officially launched in October 2017 and seeks to increase educational outcomes in the coming year through a wide range of policy levers.
According to the national center for learning disabilities, a student who finishes second grade without being able to read has only a 1 in 4 chance of reading at grade level by the end of elementary school.
FLES currently partners with various national, state and local entities to effect change in the city. Some of our current partners and supporters include:
The Education Trust
Strong Schools Maryland
Right to Read Maryland
Baltimore City Public Schools
10 schools across the Caroll-Hilton, Ashburton, Park Heights and Druid Heights communities in Baltimore City.
The mission of FLES is to eradicate educational inequity in Baltimore through school partnerships with faith-based entities, organizing and policy reform to ensure that all students achieve excellent outcomes. FLES aims to strengthen Baltimore by establishing and strengthening relationships between schools and faith-based organizations, in communities with the greatest need. It provides training to faith leaders on how to effectively use their assets to accommodate school needs.
FLES organizes around issues that are the expressed concerns of the communities it serves. It operates with a member structure to build power and mobilize for change. Additionally, it works in coalition with other advocacy organizations to ensure excellent outcomes for all students.
It is FLES’ goal to change or eradicate policies that adversely affect students’ learning and their educational outcomes. It makes recommendations and creates policies that will ensure college and career readiness for all Baltimore City students.
Faith leaders for excellent schools exist to eradicate educational inequity in the city of Baltimore: one school, one community, one child at a time.
Will you join us in our work?
Pastor Michael Phillips