It should anger black Americans that, for decades, government at all levels has denied black parents and their children the opportunity to pursue a quality education at the school of their choice, all in the name of politics. Generations of young black people are condemned to lives of desperation and hopelessness through the failure of our school system.
Some have called parental choice “the civil rights issue of our time” and we need to understand that the public school bureaucracy, for reasons they need to explain, is standing in the way of options for our children today. We must not lose another generation of black children; we must form alliances across party lines and ideologies with the singular purpose of saving our children.
From a policy perspective, I think we agree that education is the key to advancing the black community, specifically urban blacks and those living in poverty. We need to break away, however, from the tired answers of the past.
We have ample evidence that charter schools, vouchers for private schools, and other parental choice options result in dramatic improvements in reading, writing and math skills, test scores, and graduation rates for black students in some of the worst school districts in the nation.
If a political movement could be sued for social malpractice, black Americans ought to be rushing to their nearest courtroom to indict liberals for resisting parental choice. The symbiosis between liberals, local schools boards and the teachers’ unions has spawned an education bureaucracy that robs their children of their future. While their actions are criminal, the tragedy is the apparent willingness of black people to enable this malpractice with their support or silence.
The plight of young black men has been a staple in the news but the statements bear repeating. In school districts across the nation, standardized test scores and high school grade point averages are consistently lower among black males compared to any other demographic group, even black females.
Only 47% of black males are graduating from high schools nationwide compared to 75% for white males. In the state of Michigan, the black male graduation rate is an abysmal 33%. The failure of more than half of young black males to earn a high school diploma has predictable and tragic consequences. These young men are more likely to be jobless, poor, engaged in criminal activity or incarcerated than their peers with diplomas.
The reasons behind these disparities could be argued endlessly. While we sit and squabble over why this is happening, another generation of young black men is consigned to a life of endless struggle. What I do know is there are educational alternatives demonstrating incredible success with young black men, and there are also enemies of these alternatives who are blindly beholden to a failed education bureaucracy at our children’s expense.
Our inner cities provide the most egregious examples of how we’re failing our young black men. The high school graduation rates in Detroit, Indianapolis and Cleveland are 24.9%, 30.5% and 34.1%, respectively.
Yet in Milwaukee, which has had an alternative to public schools in place since the 1990s, 85% of students enrolled in the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program earned diplomas in 2007 compared to 58% in the Milwaukee public schools.
Ask parents of low-income minority children in Washington, DC about the benefits of parental choice. The DC Opportunity Scholarship Program provided $7,500 private school scholarships to poor children, most of them black or Hispanic, and the program has won praise from city leaders and parents alike for giving these children their first shot at a quality education.
Kevin P. Chavous, a former Washington, DC city council member and a national advocate and thought leader for parental choice, said, “This successful school voucher program – for DC’s poorest families – has allowed more than 3,300 children to attend the best schools they have ever known.”
As a result of these successes, black parents have been ardent supporters of parental choice for decades. But the response of most liberal politicians, school boards and teachers’ unions to these impressive numbers and the widespread black endorsement of parental choice has not been laudatory. It has been harsh.
Liberal leaders in Congress and the Obama Administration have decided to end the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program, despite widespread support from DC government officials, the DC school chancellor and “more than 70% of DC residents.” Why the hostility from institutions supposedly dedicated to excellence in education?
According to Pournelle’s Iron Law of Bureaucracy, a pearl of wisdom from science fiction writer Jerry Pournelle, the people devoted to a bureaucracy eventually take control from those devoted to the goals the bureaucracy is supposed to accomplish. The schools boards and teachers’ unions’ primary goal is self-preservation, not education. Moreover, their embrace of liberal causes such as same-sex marriage indicates they have an agenda that goes beyond teaching our children to read, write and calculate. Charter schools and other parental choice options don’t give them the opportunity to indoctrinate our children and teach them values without parental knowledge or consent.
Frustratingly, black parents continue to elect the same people who are determined to take away options to better educate their children. Black parents are overwhelmingly in favor of parental choice but don’t realize liberals and their sycophants in the education bureaucracy hate parental choice and are the very reason their children are doomed to failing schools and less abundant lives.
Ron Miller is a conservative commentator who writes extensively about identity politics and the repercussions of placing race above values, emphasizing the harmful effects of liberal policies on the black community. Ron is the executive director of Regular Folks United, an organization devoted to the advancement of liberty and our nation’s founding principles. This article on educational choice is derived from his book, Sellout: Musings from Uncle Tom’s Porch. You can purchase a copy of Sellout here.
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