School Choice Is the New Civil Rights Struggle
The Wall Street Journal ran an excellent editorial yesterday, by Brendan Miniter, pointing out that school choice has become a bipartisan issue. It’s inexcusable to leave children trapped in public school systems that are failing them, and an increasingly large number of politicians of every ideological stripe are working together to bring about real educational freedom.
From the article:
[Senator Robert] Ford was once like many Democrats on education — a reliable vote against reforms that would upend the system. But over the past three and a half years he’s studied how school choice works and he’s now advocating tax credits and scholarships that parents can spend on public or private schools.
He’s not alone. Three other prominent black Democrats in South Carolina have publicly challenged party orthodoxy. In 2006 State Rep. Harold Mitchell Jr. crossed party lines to endorse Republican Karen Floyd for state education superintendent. “We have to try something different,” he told me at the time. That same year, Curtis Brantley defeated a state representative in a primary fought over education reform. And last year, Ennis Bryant ran (unsuccessfully) against an anti-school-choice state representative in a primary.
These men are the most visible part of a movement joining black Democrats and political conservatives in a common cause. In recent years, school-choice candidates (black and white) have taken the seats of more than half a dozen antichoice legislators, and there have been two mass rallies for school choice at the state capitol that included black leaders.
Charter and private schools geared toward impoverished black children also are cropping up, and no wonder. There are about 700,000 students in public schools in South Carolina, more than a third of whom — 247,000 — are in schools considered to be failing based on test scores. Nearly 60% of the kids in these failing schools — about 146,000 — are African-American. Blacks make up about 39% of public-school students.
In March, a Pulse Opinion Research poll of 1,000 black voters in the state reported that 53% agreed that school choice would improve public education (28% disagreed). Support for school-choice legislation increased to 61% when Mr. Ford’s name was attached to it.
Giving children access to the quality educations they so desperately need is simply a common-sense position, and if Missouri’s leaders genuinely care about providing opportunity for the state’s young students, they’ll help ensure that parents can choose the best available schools for their children.