Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Urban Conservatism Can Transform Education by Akindele Akinyemi

Some are asking me how come the Republican National Committee have not developed an urban policy agenda? To be very honest with you I do not think it is the responsibility of any political party in this country to come up with an urban policy agenda because the racial makeup of these parties normally do not reflect the minorities that support these parties.

I am not a fan of creating another party for Black people because we will find ourselves in the same trick bag as if we were Republican or Democrats. No other race of people who live here in the United States talk about a separate third party to deal with their interests. Other races (Hispanics, Asians, Jews, etc.) work BOTH sides of the political aisle to push policy. The only time I have ever seen a race of people call each other out of their name because they choose to be of another political philosophy are African Americans. We are the only ones that call each other coons, Sambos and Uncle Toms. No other race who strives for economic and political power in this country conduct this type of behavior. I can clearly see why we are still working for a handout and not a handup.

Urban conservatism should be implemented on another level to create a power base in our community. Instead of African Americans complaining about America and its flaws we need to explore the reality that we are living in a free enterprise democracy and thank God that Blacks in this country are free from tyranny. The only way urban conservatism is going to work effectively is through serious educational reform, discipline and Jesus Christ.

I am shocked that both Sen. Obama and Sen. McCain are not putting education in the forefront of their campaigns. I also cannot believe the silence of most urban conservatives on this critical issue. Failing schools affect our communities more than any other community in America. Our children are graduating on a 6th grade level, dropping out at alarming rates, homosexuality is running rampant in our public schools and parents are not held accountable.

Urban conservatism should be implemented to create a transformation process in our failing schools. We accept failure because our community have accepted low standards for our children.

Think about it. Congress approved a $700 billion bailout but taxpayers are rightfully asking questions about how these funds will be spent. We all too often we forget to apply the same scrutiny to the nearly $600 billion we spend in state and federal dollars each year on K-12 education.

National test scores reveal that many students are failing to master basic skills. On the National Assessment of Educational Progress, 33 percent of fourth-graders score below basic on reading, as do 26 percent of eighth-graders. According to the U.S. Department of Education, fourth-graders not performing at a basic level are unable to make general conclusions about what they read. At the eighth-grade level, this means students are unable to make simple inferences or interpret ideas. For both grade levels, these are crucial skills to master to ensure future academic success.

Our children are struggling to graduate.
In 2006, only 61 percent of Hispanic students and 59 percent of black students graduated. An independent analysis found that, in some of our nation's biggest cities, fewer than half of all students finish high school. In the Baltimore City and Cleveland Municipal City school districts, only about one-third of all students graduate. Indianapolis has a graduation rate of only 30 percent, and a mere 24.9 percent of Detroit students complete high school.

Where is the national outrage? How come we are not taking to the streets? How come these candidates who are running for President are not making education their #1 issue. You cannot talk about economics unless you talk about education.

I am not for throwing more money to fix the problem in school districts such as Detroit.

We can talk all about implementing education reforms to improve the efficiency and productivity of our schools but truth be told it must start in the home. Studies show that there is a correlation between family structure and high school dropout rates. This fact naturally influences future educational outcomes and opportunities for our nation's children. Family structure, or a lack thereof, appears to affect college admission and completion rates.

Urban conservatives should also divorce the current No Child Left Behind Law that was enacted by Congress in 2001. The only thing NCLB has succeeded has been expanding federal power. Federal spending on K-12 education has increased by 41 percent since 2001. The Department of Education has been granted new powers to micromanage how states and localities run their schools. The cost of bureaucratic compliance has increased — resulting in more education dollars spent on administration than in the classroom. In all, NCLB increased the regulatory burden on state and local governments by 6.7 million hours annually — approximately $140 million.

How ridiculous.

Urban conservatives should push for a grassroots effort to have states ( and possibly even urban communities) to opt out of NCLB and receive federal funding free from NCLB regulations as long as they maintained state-level testing and public reporting. One promising approach would be to combine urban conservatives' strategy for granting school districts more authority with a reform geared to expanding school choice. Congress could offer school districts receiving Title I funding the freedom to opt out of federal requirements under NCLB if they choose to redirect their funding into a revised Title I funding system that allows for "backpack funding" — that is, federal funding following a child directly to the school of his or her parents' choice.

Under such a plan, school districts could end ineffective federal programs and avoid regulations if they simply let federal funding follow low-income students and allow widespread public-school choice. Districts could include private school in the range of choices, too. However, districts could still be required to hold schools accountable for results by setting standards, testing students annually and reporting results to the public.

I have said too many times that urban conservatives should lead the fight on education reform. That time is now. The time has come to abandon the big-government approach in education. Transferring power from Washington to parents and local leaders would be a blessing to all of us.

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