For decades, liberals and conservatives have made school vouchers a policy battlefield. Many Republicans see them as a way to offer middle- and low-income students the same chance at a high-quality private education as wealthy children have, and to give public schools some free-market competition along the way. Many Democrats, and the teachers’ unions that back them, say the voucher programs leech taxpayer money from public schools, making it harder for them to serve any children well.
A Republican-controlled Congress established the Opportunity Scholarships program, for kindergarten through grade 12, in 2004. It has provided scholarships of up to $7,500 annually to cover tuition, fees and transportation expenses for each of about 1,700 poor children to attend private school. Some 90 percent of the participating students have been African-American, and an additional 9 percent Hispanic, according to the Department of Education study.
An explanatory statement accompanying the bill said that money provided for the program could be used only for students who are currently enrolled, rather than new students, and that Washington’s schools chancellor “should promptly take steps to minimize potential disruption and ensure smooth transition for any students seeking enrollment in the public school system” after the 2009-10 school year.
What's killing me is how there is a silence on the Congress's decision to pull the plug on the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program from conservatives, especially Black Republicans. We are quick to jump on abortion rights and fight against same sex marriage but to stay silent on issues of educational choice is incredible.
No offense but we are more interested in tea parties than saving children who may end up in prison or dead. Where are our priorities?
There should have been a MASS MOVEMENT to save OUR children. This is an opportunity to see what we are made of when it comes to policy issues. Instead of kissing Rush's "ring" and apologizing RNC leader Michael Steele should have made a mandate for all of us to BLOCK this measure from even taking place. Other state GOPs should have followed. Black Republicans should be leading this fight 100% because the children that will be affected the most will be BLACK CHILDREN. That means we should lobby and support any and all measures of educational options.
But that's the problem with our party. Saving our children are not a priority. And to blame liberals for social engineering when the religious right has socially engineered line-items in our community to discuss and play on our feelings is a two-edge sword. Education eradicates poverty in our community and to turn our backs on our children is a complete disgrace. If Congress comes after vouchers they will eventually turn their guns on limiting charter schools and homeschooling. This is a test run for the Democratic-controlled Congress to pass bad educational policies.
And it is not just happening on the federal level. Right here in Michigan we have this bill ON THE TABLE Michigan House Education Committee:
House Bill 4047
Introduced by Rep. Bettie Scott (D) on January 22, 2009, to reduce from 100,000 to 60,000 the number of students that qualify a school district as a “school district of the first class.” Detroit is the only such district, which among other things is a statutory device to prohibit an expansion of charter schools in the city. The Detroit district has lost tens of thousands of students in recent years, and is fell below the 100,000 threshold last fall.
Under the current definition, Detroit Public Schools is the only "first class" school district in Michigan. It would remain the only eligible district even with the proposed change.
In Michigan law "first class" districts operate under a different set of state regulations from all other school districts (known as "general powers" districts). The sections of the Revised School Code dealing with "first class" districts address school board composition, school board officers, school board meeting locations, board member personal interest in contacts, required annual audits, voting procedures, public communication, condemnation proceedings, bond sales, contracts, and public safety. There are also references in many other statutes to "first class" school districts.
This bill is a direct assault on limiting charter schools in Detroit. Even though 18 Detroit Public Schools are slated to close by the end of the school year our state lawmakers from Detroit still insist on limiting educational choices instead of working together to improve educational quality in Detroit. We cannot amend the state constitution to allow vouchers on a local level nor tax credits. Now, the very same people we elect to Lansing want to block charter schools and homeschooling...our very last educational choices in Michigan.
Today, The Michigan House Education Committee passed HB 4047 -- but they substituted the bill with new language that simply extends "first class school district" status for DPS until July 2010, regardless of their enrollment. This is ridiculous.
I will support a bill from any lawmaker breaking up Detroit Public Schools into seven smaller school districts. Republican or Democrat. My concern is educational quality from K-16.
Now, back to the DC Voucher situation.
Schools cannot educate children without the support of parents, families and communities. Good teachers and administrators are invaluable to the educational process, but they are not miracle workers. Schools, by themselves, do not educate children; they simply reinforce and expand what children already know when they come to school. This is why Republicans supported the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program for low-wealth families in D.C. in the first place.
This program has been a lifeline to a better life for those kids who were lucky enough to participate. It gave school vouchers of $7500 to 1,700 kids so that they could attend schools of their choice. Every year since it was established in 2004, there have been four times as many kids applying as there were spaces. Many have attended Catholic schools and although the tuition and associated fees of these schools were higher than the voucher, the Archdiocese of Washington ate the difference.
The Black Star Project, an educational community organization based in Chicago, Illinois, produced the following statistics on Black men:
(a) Only 45% of Black men graduate from high school in the United States.
(b) Just 22 % of Black males who began at a four-year college graduated within six years.
(c) 69% of Black children in America cannot read at grade level in the 4th grade, compared with 29% among White children.
(d) 7% of Black 8th-graders perform math at grade level.
(e) 32% of all suspended students are Black. Black students (mostly Black males) are twice as likely as Whites to be suspended or expelled.
(f) 67% of Black children are born out of wedlock.
(g) At comparable educational levels, Black men earn 67% of what White men make.
(h) White males with a high-school diploma are just as likely to have a job and tend to earn just as much as Black males with college degrees.
(i) Blacks make up only 3.2% of lawyers, 3% of doctors, and less than 1% of architects in America. Many of these are Black women.
(j) 53% of Black men aged 25-34 are either unemployed or earn too little to lift a family of four from poverty.
(k) Light-skinned Blacks have a 50% better chance of getting a job than dark-skinned Blacks.
(l) While constituting roughly 12% of the total population, Black America represents nearly 30% of America's poor.
(m) 45% of Black children live below the poverty line, compared with 16% of White children.
(n) Blacks account for only 12% of the U.S. population, but 44 % of all prisoners in the United States are Black.
(o) Blacks, who comprise only 12% of the population and account for about 13% of drug users,
constitute 35% of all arrests for drug possession, 55% of all convictions on those charges, and 74% of all those sentenced to prison for possession.
(p) In at least fifteen states, Black men were sent to prison on drug charges at rates ranging from twenty to fifty-seven times those of White men.
As urban conservatives who are part of the Silver Rights Movement in our communities we should be committed to improving the quality of life in minority communities nationwide by fighting to eliminate the racial academic achievement gap. This gap is evidenced by discrepancies in statistics such standardized test scores, high school graduation rates, college success rates between Black and Latino students and their White peers.
This is not the time to be silent when educational options for our children are under fire. We should be operating in crisis mode by melting the phones at Congress demanding that they do not cut off educational options for our children.
Receiving a quality education greatly increases one’s ability to get a job, insure their financial future and plan for the success of future generations. Education is the key to improving the quality of life in low-income urban communities. As a form of educational capital, knowledge passes from parent to child; if it not saved, nurtured and grown, it will die. Therefore, by giving communities the skills, information and resources to receive a quality education and help others to see the value in doing so, we can ensure the quality of life for future generations.
Urban conservatives should not drop the ball when it comes to providing education for our children. Therefore, every member of Congress regardless of party who voted for the Omnibus Bill should be forced to go to a public meeting and explain to the the D.C. Scholarship students and their parents why they voted to kill their hopes and dreams.