The Fight Against School
The intent to scuttle the nomination of
Betsy Devos, a strong advocate of School Choice, recalls
distressing conditions in the Public School system before Brown
vs. Board of Education in 1954.
With that decision, it
was thought that equal access to good schools (and closing the
gap in educational outcomes within the Jim Crow Public School
system) was understood and would be achieved.
Justice Earl Warren, in the opinion of the Supreme Court, wrote
“Today, education is perhaps the most
important function of state and local governments. ….. It is the
very foundation of good citizenship. Today it is a principal
instrument in awakening the child to cultural values, in
preparing him for later professional training, and in helping
him to adjust normally to his environment. In these days, it is
doubtful that any child may reasonably be expected to succeed in
life if he is denied the opportunity of an education. .......”
It seems rather odd that conditions at inner city Public
Schools in the present deny most of the same qualities sort in
the historic decision of 1954.
There are now two public
school systems in America (though described as one). The good
ones are in rich neighborhood and the bad ones in poor areas.
Whether the above situation is accidental or planned should
not be the issue. Rather, it should be observed that a poor kid
in this "two-stream" system today gets the short shrift in
educational outcomes, as if he or she were back in the Jim Crow
system prior to 1954.
A report issued by the US
Department of Education titled, "Expansive Survey of America's
Public Schools Reveals Troubling Racial Disparities," admits the
“In all, it is clear that the United States
has a great distance to go to meet our goal of providing
opportunities for every student to succeed," U.S. Secretary of
Education Arne Duncan said.
At the bottom of the divide
are the failing and underperforming inner city public schools,
where most Blacks and the underprivileged live.
inner city schools have become agents of unemployment, creators
of unsafe neighborhoods and assurers of prison incarcerations
for the youth - all outcomes that would suit the tendencies of a
Jim Crow's heart.
Education outcomes, as already
understood in 1954, are issues that underpin all aspects of
Black life. Good outcomes assure good life. For years black
youths have been devastated by poor outcomes at inner city
Ironically, considerations about these
poor educational outcomes have so far not separated Blacks from
Democrat policies, to question the risks that support for the
current Public School concept pose to core Black interest in
This Public School concept, School Choice
advocates claim, is outdated. And they see in their new approach
a rather novel effort to fulfill the Brown vs. Board Education
Unfortunately, their proposal has not much
support among Democrats and now two Republican senators..
Together with the Teachers Unions, Democrats resist
vehemently the idea of School Choice. They condemn it as a ploy
to move resources from the Public Schools to private ones in the
form of vouchers.
“Vouchers pull resources from schools
that need every dollar they can get,” they say.
advocates and protectors of the current public school concept,
the problem is with the education budget itself; the need is for
more money to bail the failing schools.
They argue that:
"Failing" is a relative term, of course. But there's no
question that public schools — like all components of government
— are struggling with reduced budgets. According to a Census
Bureau report that came out last year, 2011 marked the first
year in four decades that per-student spending in public schools
Indeed, failing is a relative term. But
the fallacy in the above argument is that the school in the poor
areas were failing long before 2011 and are continuing to fail
even after 2016. So what to do?
understanding of School Choice as a drain is amazingly
Comparatively, Democrats don't mind giving out
food stamps (SNAP) that pull resources to rich merchants in the
same neighborhoods that the poor schools are located.
truth, they are against the removal of the protective barriers
that surround the zip code public school system and afraid that
the elimination could move poor students to their rich
But, why must a choice to move a
kid from a non-performing Public School A in a ghetto to a
performing Public School B in a different neighborhood be a
drain on the same Public School system in the first place?
And, what is wrong with adding private schools as options to
the Public School system when needed?
At least, the mere
existence of another option, which is what School Choice is,
could induce more competition and parents get to decide where
their wards' vouchers go.
Preceding administrations have
not done much to embrace School Choice for one utmost reason:
The fear of the Teacher Union funds that generously support
mostly the Democrat party.
Luckily for advocates of
School Choice, there is a new administration that believes in
educational innovation and is prepared to act.
nominee for Secretary of Education, Betsy Devos, is an ardent
supporter of School Choice for over 30 years, and predictably,
her nomination is being bitterly opposed by the Democrat party
and the Teacher Unions
Also, predictably, Devos has been
described by the opposition as being unqualified for the job.
Listening to the questions opponents at Senate hearings
have for Devos, you could detect the bias against School Choice.
At the same time you would be struck aghast by the underlining
insensitivity on display for the plight of victims in poor
The questions, apparently, are not
meant to elicit how School Choice can help, but to block the
idea entirely., A question by Senator Bernie Sanders to Betsy
Devos, for example:
“Do you think, if you were not a
multi-billionaire, if your family had not made hundreds of
millions of dollars of contributions to the Republican Party,
that you would be sitting here today?”
Devos answer, “I
do think that there would be that possibility….”
Bernie Sanders, the socialist, scoffed at the answer.
Forget the fact that School Choice has been Devos' passion and
specialty for over 30 years. And this is the expertise that
bought her the nomination and the wish to bring same skill set
into an accepted educational system, but not necessarily to
abolish the existing public schools!
But her detractors
want no part of this argument and would take none into
Devos is facing an uphill fight. It has
just been learned that two Republican senators, both white
women, from constituencies far from the effects of the desperate
Public School system in poor areas but afraid of the wash that
the voucher for School Choice may bring to their neighborhoods,
have planed to go against her in the final floor vote.
Senators Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins, Republicans from
Alaska and Maine respectively, accused Devos of failing to
understand "what public schools needed to succeed."
dose of School Choice vouchers, maybe?
Well, only the
Teacher Unions could understand "what the public schools needed
As heavy recipients of generous Teacher
Union donations, Murkowski and Collins potential two votes
against Devos can be classified as fear and “donor service”
induced, not likely driven by any principle of the Republican
party they represent.
But never mind. Once the intent of
the two Republicans was announced it was accepted with glee by
the Democrat caucus and the Teacher Unions, thereby cementing
the special interest link between them because the chances of
Devos attaining the simple majority plus one vote have been
reduced in the close votes expected.
What remains to be
seen is whether the disapproval is an effort against only Betsy
Devos the billionaire or a quest to kill the idea of School
Choice itself, thereby locking down the poor and Black kids in
Devos, as a person, can be forced out of
the nomination. But can the idea behind School Choice die with
I know of no credible plan that has a promise
to erase the gap in outcomes like that proposed by School
Choice. The idea of pouring more money into the coffers of a
failing school system though very lame, sounds also like shouts
from a con man who has no innovation to sell.
for public schools has been the easy sell for the Teacher Unions
It must be remembered that there is an
educational crisis in America today. It keeps Blacks and the
poor in rotten schools; this in a society that has been
struggling to free itself of the same depraved conditions since
Brown vs. Board of Education decision in 1954.
writer, if you are black, love your kids and will like to give
them a shot at a better future, you will go for School Choice.
E. Ablorh-Odjidja, Publisher www.ghanadot.com, Washington,
DC, February 03, 2017.
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