- The Washington Times - Friday, July 19, 2002

A majority of blacks if given a choice would send their children to charter or private schools, a poll released yesterday showed.

Sixty-three percent of blacks said they would prefer to remove their children from a public school and enroll them in a charter or private school. Forty-six percent supported the idea of charter schools operated by local residents, the poll conducted by the Black America's Political Action Committee (BAMPAC) last month showed.

"African-Americans are becoming increasingly frustrated with the public school system and its failure, in many cases, to provide a quality education for their children," said Alvin Williams, BAMPAC's president. "This poll illustrates that school choice in all its forms is an idea that should be explored as a viable alternative for parents to consider."

Fifty-six percent of blacks gave a "C" grade or lower when asked to evaluate the condition of public schools. They said lack of discipline, lack of resources such as computers and books, classroom overcrowding and social issues like drug use and juvenile crime are the biggest problems facing their schools, the poll found.

"This just shows us that the idea of choice is widely supported by the African-American community," Mr. Williams said. "That would include everything from school vouchers to charter schools to home schooling."

The poll surveyed 1,000 registered black voters between June 20 and June 30. Also last month, the Supreme Court ruled that the Constitution permits parents to pay parochial-school tuition with government vouchers, effectively legalizing the school-choice concept.

Meanwhile, the American Federation of Teachers yesterday issued a report that concludes that the vast majority of existing charter schools have failed to fulfill their promise to bring greater achievement and innovation to the classroom.

The AFT report recommended that policy-makers should not expand charter school activities until more convincing evidence of their effectiveness or viability is presented.

"While some are successful and should be used as models, most charter schools don't improve student achievement, aren't innovative and are less accountable than the public schools," AFT's President Sandra Feldman said. The AFT is a union that represents nearly 1 million public school teachers.

Charter schools are publicly funded academies operated by community-based groups, private business or groups of educators and parents. The charter schools generally are freer from public school rules and regulations and often are held less accountable for student achievement than other public schools.

Education was one of the topics covered by the poll. Social issues, such as racial profiling and discrimination, were identified as other sources of concern among blacks.

The poll found:

•33 percent of blacks are concerned about national security and 24 percent are concerned about the economy.

•46 percent developed a more favorable opinion of President Bush based on his response to the September 11 attacks.

•52 percent have experienced racial profiling or have had a family member or friend who has been profiled.

•80 percent called Secretary of State Colin L. Powell "the most popular political figure" in Washington.

•57 percent said they side with a pro-life stance on the abortion issue and 84 percent said they favor a law that requires a parent or guardian to be notified before a minor gets an abortion.

•40 percent said the Democratic Party has taken them for granted, even though 82 percent of those polled called themselves Democrats.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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