In an unforgettable YouTube video produced by the American Federation for Children, an African American school choice activist named Walter invokes Martin Luther King to lament the myriad ways our education system fails black children. Playing on the words of MLK’s most famous speech, he says:
We stand in a vast ocean of prosperity. For some. For those who can afford the right zip code or tuition. Some find ourselves as an exile in our land, exiled from an education system just beyond our reach, just beyond that arbitrary red line, colored by some distant bureaucrat whose own children wouldn’t dare set foot in my school. When can we finally attend the school of our choice? When can we finally see the riches of freedom?
Walter gets it exactly right. Our current public education system fails too many minority children, leaving them trapped in failing public schools, doomed to mediocre education by virtue of their zip code. But bizarrely, the national leadership of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, arguably the country’s most preeminent African American advocacy group, has called for an outright ban on charter schools. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., has rolled out an education plan that would severely restrict charter schools as well.
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos rightfully finds this opposition to school choice misguided, as the NAACP is opposing the same programs that are helping countless disadvantaged and nonwhite students across the country. Devos was right to say, “I think they’re totally mistaken, and they’re not really acting or speaking in the best interests of those they profess to represent.”
Nearly 7 in 10 African Americans polled say they support school choice. It’s easy to see why, with countless studies showing that educational
freedom improves outcomes for nonwhite students. Florida programs offer one such example, as I’ve previously noted:
Students at Florida charter schools outperformed their public school counterparts on standardized tests, with higher passing rates at both elementary, middle, and high school levels. The results were particularly acute among disadvantaged students: Low-income kids were 10% more likely to pass their reading test, Hispanic students 12%, and black students 4% more likely to succeed. Improvements were also noted in math scores and other key areas.
So, all in all, there’s no reason for groups such as the NAACP and progressives such as Sanders to keep opposing education freedom. At least, not if they wish to practice what they preach, and actually help the minority communities they’re supposed to be supporting.