Black Americans in the School Choice Controversy




Dent, Cambrey

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“The right to choose” has become one of the most contested phrases in discussions about education reform. Educators, advocates, elected officials, and parents are found on both sides of the debate. In today’s society, school choice can be defined as “publicly funded voucher programs that provide public funds for students to attend private, parochial and charter schools. These schools have significant autonomy with respect to governance, budget, personnel, and curriculum programming”(Stulberg 15). School choice proponents believe that by giving parents the ability to opt out of the public school system, they are giving them an invaluable opportunity to rescue their students from failing school systems. Opponents, however, contend that school choice supporters are simply “pawns” playing into a capitalistic agenda. Minority students, specifically African Americans, are affected the most by these policies. Despite the fact that school choice is usually a part of a “conservative” agenda and African Americans tend to support “left-leaning policies,” there is an over-whelming number of Black students looking for a way out of the public school system. And, many Black elected officials are supporting their efforts. Working hand in hand with Republicans and Democrats are working hand in hand in State Legislatures as well as Congress crafting school choice initiatives. So, what is causing these bi-partisan efforts? It is evident everyone has not become party to the free-market theories of Milton Friedman, yet the idea of giving students the “right to choose” is gaining a strong bipartisan appeal. It can be reasoned that groups are using the same means to accomplish different ends. For example, many blacks have become disillusioned with America’s piteous attempts to bring about social justice for their communities. They are ready to take matters into their own hands, and school choice is the means to their end. In the following pages, I will examine 1) the impact of Jim Crow segregation on the educational experiences of African Americans, 2) the pre-Brown v. Board of Education experiences of Blacks, 3) Post-Brown and the Desegregation of Public Schools, 4) the emergence of the school voucher movement, and 5) the adoption of school choice by the New Orleans, LA school district. This comprehensive view of the educational experiences of Black America will help to explain why its voice is so prominent in the school choice deb



Social policy., Education policy., Civil rights., Discrimination.