School busing, affirmative action and school vouchers are responses to the
same problem. For four centuries, our government denied Americans equal
educational opportunity because of the color of their skin. Our challenge today is to find a solution that finally erases the stain of American racism from the fabric of this special country.
Busing was the answer that federal courts and black communities in the
1960s and ’70s embraced. Affirmative action became a powerful tool to force state and local governments to do more than give lip service to equal opportunity in the 1970s and 80s. Now, many Americans have rejected both remedies and believe that school vouchers represent the best and most long lasting solution to the education of their children.
The school voucher movement is based upon a very simple idea: That
parents have the right to use their money to give their children the best possible education. You would think that all would embrace the idea of school vouchers in a country whose constitution starts with the words “We the People.”
School voucher opponents argue that we have to finance “government
schools” no matter how poorly they do their job. They insist that parents don’t have the right to decide what is best for their children. Opponents of vouchers believe that they know what is best for the children that they do not raise, do not feed, do not cloth, do not house, and in too many cases, do not love.
Voucher opponents tell us that if parents who care about their kids have the
right to pull them out of the “government school” system, the only kids left will be either problem kids or come from broken homes. I don’t believe them. I am convinced that if government school teachers face layoffs if they don’t do a better job educating our kids, they will suddenly develop a very personal interest in the intellectual growth of all of their students. Anyway, what right do pubic sector employees have to keep our children hostages of their failure to perform?
Advocates of the government school monopoly have forgotten that every tax
dollar comes from the same source, our pockets. You and I know that there is no such thing as federal taxes, state taxes, local taxes or corporate taxes. You and I pay every dollar of tax revenue as income taxes, property taxes, sales taxes or taxes embedded in the price of products and services we buy.
Sadly, opponents of school vouchers don’t understand the cruel and
destructive legacy of school integration and school bussing. Before the U. S.
Supreme Court ruled in Brown vs. Board of Education that separate but equal education was neither, most schools in America were segregated by law. Forty-four years later, after we have spent tens of billions of dollars on busing, magnet schools and other “integration” tools, most schools in America are still segregated.
In the process, however, we have destroyed the social fabric of many black
communities throughout America. Black administrators, principles and teachers were fired. Black schools were closed. We bussed black kids for hours so they could sit next to white kids who didn’t want them there. As we integrated America, we drained the very essence of black communities.
I am the great grandson of a slave. While I am very happy that legal
segregation has ended, the price that the black community has paid worshiping at the altar of racial integration saddens me. Forty-four years ago, black communities were served by vibrant and responsive black owned businesses. Not anymore. Forty-four years ago, teen pregnancy and abortion were rare in the black community. Not anymore. Forty-four years ago, getting married was the norm in the black community. Not anymore.
Forty-four years ago, we all knew that if a black person went to college or got a “good job,” it was because he or she was twice as smart as their white
counterparts. Not anymore. Forty-four years ago, those who worked in black schools played a crucial role in preparing black children to be competitive in a harsh, cruel world. Well, the world is still harsh and cruel, but now far too many school employees now care more about their paychecks than school kids.
America was not concerned about diversity when Brown vs. Board of
Education was decided in 1954. The Court was just acknowledging the harsh
political realities of the time. It rightfully believed that white politicians would never equally fund black schools. So, they argued, the only way to guarantee that black kids would get the same quality education as white kids was by putting them all in the same schools.
This “solution” assumed those white parents opposed to racial integration had no choice but to send their kids to public schools. However, since this is America, they did have a choice. Hundreds of thousands of white parents took their children out of the public schools and enrolled them in private, all-white, schools. And white politicians continued to under invest in public education for poor kids of all colors.
The second, unanticipated consequence of Brown vs. Board of Education,
was the development of the notion of the inherent inferiority of all-black schools. Mr. Justice Clarence Thomas talks about this offensive assumption in his June 1995 decision in Missouri vs. Jenkins:
“It never ceases to amaze me that the courts are so willing to assume
that anything that is predominantly black must be inferior. Instead of focusing on remedying the harm done to those black schoolchildren injured by segregation, the District Court here sought to convert the Kansas City,
Missouri, School District into a “magnet district” that would reverse the “white flight” caused by desegregation.”
“… Black schools can function as the center and symbol of Black communities, and provide examples of independent Black leadership,
success and achievement.”
(The lower court’s decision) ” … appears to rest upon the idea that any
school that is Black is inferior, and that Blacks cannot succeed without the
benefit of the company of whites.” Clarence concluded by saying that:
” … there is no reason to think that Black students cannot learn as well
when surrounded by members of their own race as when they are in an
integrated environment.” “We must forever put aside the notion that simply
because a school district today is black, it must be educationally inferior.”
Is it not surprising, then, that Black and Latino parents are leading the call for school vouchers? They refuse to accept the liberal orthodoxy that they and their children are inherently inferior. They are tired of their children being mis-educated by government schools. They know that if their kids don’t get the best possible education, they won’t have a chance in the coming information century.
White politicians like Bill Clinton and Al Gore deeply offend them by arguing
against school vouchers while they use their government salaries to send their children to private schools. Parents of color are even more offended by teacher union opposition when they see half the public school teachers in the District of Columbia sending their children to private schools.
Why should the political elites have a choice that’s denied to the rest of us?
Why should working class parents be denied the same freedom of choice of those who can afford to pay school taxes and then again for private school tuition? Why should any parent be forced to pay to send their child to a school environment that destroys their children’s potential and places their lives at risk?
School vouchers give every parent the right to use their tax dollars to educate their children the best way that they think makes sense. If you really care about our children and the future of America, empower parents to do what they feel is best for their kids.