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  • Guest Blogger: Ron Miller on School Choice

    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.

    The views expressed by guest bloggers on the Foundry do not necessarily reflect the views of the Heritage Foundation.

    Posted in Education [slideshow_deploy]

    5 Responses to Guest Blogger: Ron Miller on School Choice

    1. George Colgrove, VA says:

      I posted this before. I feel we are looking to government too much for solutions when the private sector which has been fundamental in giving ALL humans over the earth products and services to make life easy and enjoyable. Government solutions have always been arduous, expensive and have never meet the intent. Education becomes a racial issue when governments are involved. If people are allowed to do as they wish, racial components will fall out. People will look for schools based on costs, excellence and convenience. The fact people will have a choice forces schools to be compliant – not with a government who sets minimum standards at a high cost, but with the customers who want the best they can get with minimum costs.

      All schools should be privatized – period. I still agree with Benjamin Franklin, that schooling should be publically funded, but that does not mean the school is a public entity. Towns can still collect school taxes to provide a maximum voucher amount to all children. Parents will then use the open market to choose the school their kids will go. Schools can charge more than the voucher, but that will have to come from the parent.

      To transfer to the private system each town will assign stock shares of the local school system to each town member, making them a direct owner of the school. The school board will be replaced with a board of trustees. This is mostly semantics because much will be run as it is now. However, when the school pays its first dividend that will wake many up in the town. There should be a period where there is a freeze on the sale of school stock. After the school has achieved "value" then a school stock market can be formed where people can buy or sell their shares. I think there needs to be restrictions on how much of the market share one company can have in any particular area. We do not want the public monopoly be replaced by a corporate monopoly as both hurt the economy. The point is to make these schools compete for students.

      If this is implemented, it will not matter if a government decides for us what alternatives there will be for education. The market will decide. It is offensive that we need to look to some buffoon in the white house or some body of self-righteous federal employees – regardless of the party they belong to – to get guidance on alternatives. We can decide that for ourselves. If we want a school to send Johnny to that focuses on the environment, then we will find a school backed by or even owned by the Sierra Club. If we want Johnny to be skilled in business, then we may want to send him to a school with financial backing by IBM. If Johnny excels at fixing things, then the Votech school owned by a trade organization may be a great place to send him. The possibilities would become endless, because we the people are in control, not some loft federal agency.

      Government is failing all over the world and especially in the US. When looking for "alternatives" we need to be looking into a post-government era. We need to look into putting the people back in charge of their lives. No more promises, just get it done.

    2. Jill, Milwaukee says:

      Fixing public education is the solution. Public education worked great for generations of white people but when school desegregation came around, suddenly the public lost its commitment to public education.

      Black children who are using school vouchers are not going to the private schools from which poor people have been barred for generations due to inability to pay tuition; they are attending schools where the majority of the students are voucher students. There are two reasons why the statistic cited says they do better than public school students: they come from homes where parents are actively involved (first clue: the parent has gotten them the voucher), and private schools are not required to serve special education students, so the ratio of SPED to non-SPED students in the public schools here has risen dramatically. Many schools face an average of around 30% SPED students.

      Let's start holding the public schools accountable and require that they serve SPED students and report data to the public–two things they're not required to do. What is the source of the graduation statistic in the article? My guess is that it's totally made up.

    3. Rob DeHarpport, Oakr says:

      In Oregon, our Legislature, which is largely controlled by the Orehon Education Association & NEA has limited the enrollment of a highly succesful online academy to 2400, there is a waiting list & lottery to gain enrollment. It's obvious that competition is the Unions greatest fear and threat, if these teachers unions actually had the kids best interest in mind they would welcome innovation & competition.

    4. Tim AZ says:

      Do you really think that liberals are just going to roll over and let minorities off of the plantation? Liberals are very masterful at cultivating ignorance among minorities. They have to be in order to maintain their voting base. Liberals understand that in most cases when a minority labeled person manages to educate themselves they will leave the plantation in pursuit of their own best interests and, that results in another vote lost. It's just too easy to buy votes with welfare and all the other entitlements that can be given away at the tax payers expense.

    5. Greg Coale says:

      Hey Ron!

      Congrats on finishing and publishing your book!

      Until black Americans stand up for commonsense, they will continue to contribute to their own discrimination. They must stop slavishly" following their father's master's political party and stop assuming that someone with the same skin shade, who is charismatic, necessarily has their best interest at heart.

      Also, each time a patriot sees an injustice, they need to get into the fray. Right now we are slightly distracted by 11/2 and the distracting legislation being passed. Once this is over, we must stand up against every injustice.

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