- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 2, 2017


The current mayor of D.C. did it — as did a former Virginia governor, the president of the NFL Players Association, a Supreme Court justice and a first lady.

The pantheon of black Americans who benefited from attending private schools is a full measure of school choice.

Indeed, many of those schools were founded by religious leaders and organizations because blacks could not attend public schools, or black families could not afford to send their children to secondary or post-secondary schools. Many parents needed their children to tend to the business of agriculture, and even when they themselves became sharecroppers or moved to more promising climes, black girls became house servants (or “The Help”) to aid the family.

The civil rights movement changed much of that, without question, though now it seems that the more things change, the more things stay the same.

Disgruntlement over school choice is an example.

The facts about educational options have gotten lost to myth (fake news).

America’s Reconstruction and post-Reconstruction eras brought about substantial game-changers in public education, and the U.S. Supreme Court’s school desegregation rulings forced additional changes. The

year 1972 did, too. That’s the year the United Negro College Fund let loose a clarion call: “A mind is a terrible thing to waste.” The simple sentence became etched in the minds of Americans with a straightforward imperative to prod anyone and everyone to donate money to historically black institutions — private institutions — of higher learning.

Unfortunately, some 45 years later, too many Americans are shunning the UNCF message, mistakenly holding the view that a few other simple words — school choice and charter schools — sound the death knell for public education and public schools. They hold press conferences, sickouts, rallies and protests to knock down school choice proposals and charter school funding ideas to get their “fake news” out.

To them “school choice” is a four-letter word, and the opportunities afforded blacks at private schools are an invention of those grand conspirators known as the right wing.

They do not want you to know the facts, one of which is that charter schools and their support organizations operate similarly to UNCF by providing money to students, working with like-minded public and private entities and advocating, advocating, advocating.

Another myth is that supporters of charters and vouchers are inherently anti-public school. What a lie. They (we) are pro-public education, understanding that traditional public school bureaucracies are stuck in the past and the unions that control them do not operate in the best interests of black students.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and the teachers unions are perfect examples. In his bid for re-election, the Democrat not only jumped into bed with the union but afterward said out loud to parents, children and educators alike that “a high school diploma was good enough for their future.”

Instead of creating distractions about Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ fumble on school choice and historically black schools, black America should be tarring and feathering Mr. de Blasio for his low expectations of our children. He does not expect them to become Michelle Obama, Thurgood Marshall, DeMaurice Smith, Doug Wilder or Muriel Bowser. They — and many others — chose to attend private institutions of higher learning that accepted public and private money.

Sure, choice forces public dollars to follow the child into the schoolhouse: That’s the intention.

Why are public and private dollars OK to vouch for children’s post-secondary education but considered a no-no for primary and secondary schooling?

Regardless of the grade a child is in, long gone are the days when “a high school diploma was good enough for their future.” And whether it’s public or private money that ensures a child’s education shouldn’t be a political football either.

And stop debating about using public money for religious schooling, too. A voucher is a voucher is a voucher.

School choice supporters sidestep the distractions, drown out the de Blasios and correct the myths with the facts and a few choice words: “A mind is a terrible thing to waste.”

Deborah Simmons can be contacted at [email protected]

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