Thursday, March 19, 2009

Where Is The Outcry To Support Black Children in Education? by Akindele Akinyemi

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.


Constructive Feedback said...

Brother Akinyemi:

I love you brother for your impassioned views of the chaotic situation in "urban America".

I agree with you that there are moves by operatives who are more beholden to the educational establishment than they are to the interests of providing quality education for the children - the mostly Black and Hispanic children that are most impacted by these polices.

As you will note from my Link below (under the "Links to this post" section) I ultimately disagree with you on your strategy asking that Black conservatives wage a fight against this policy.

Let me more clearly explain my reasoning.

I am of the opinion that we are witnessing a SOLD OUT BLACK POLITICAL ESTABLISHMENT that have much influence on the Black community. It comes as no surprise that the Black Community has accepted the words of the Progressive Fundamentalists that SCHOOL CHOICE is nothing more than an attempt at:

* Wresting Control of BLACK RUN school systems from Black people and handing control back to WHITE FOLKS and/or Corporations

* That this is a "Union Busting" move by forces of anti-labor

* That this is an attempt at monetizing the education of Black people so that these funds can go into corporate hands.


This should not be a fight against the PRINCIPALITIES who sit in the legislature that are ultimately seeking to shut Black kids INTO failing public schools.

THIS MUST be an effort to PROVIDE INFORMATION AND FACTS to Black people and allow them to see that THEIR ESTABLISHMENT LEADERS don't have their interests in mind.

Just as the sold out leaders have placed THEIR PARTY ahead of the interests of their people........

Black people have placed their loyalties to their FAVORED BLACK and/or Democratic leadership and the fight against CONSERVATIVES ahead of their PERMANENT INTERESTS.

What you are witnessing, Brother Akinyemi is the perversion of the "siege mentality". Regardless of how much Detroit crumbles there will be some bigoted Black leader who blames the erosion of Detroit under their leadership to the fact that WHITE FOLKS AND CAPITALISM has left them all alone to fend for themselves.

I insist that the Black community SPEAK TRUTH TO POWER but SPEAK TO THE PEOPLE THAT THEY HAVE PUT IN POWER to run their local institutions but are failing miserably.

Aknyemi - THEY HATE YOU FOR WHAT YOU BELIEVE. You will be spat upon by the entrenched bigots if you walk down their streets and tell them what THEIR LEADERSHIP is doing to them.

It is ONLY WHEN they are willing even CONSIDER for one second AGREEING WITH YOU based on the EVIDENCE THAT YOU PRODUCE that things will change WITHIN THE BLACK COMMUNITY.

Our people are no less bigoted than the Whites who were noted in the past when they worked against our interests. We BOTH are equal humans.

zelene said...

keep speaking out, mr. akindele! there are some educators who are not sharecropping on the traditional farm! i am a retired fourth-generation classroom teacher who fervently believes in school choice, homeschooling and charter schools. a system that so ill-serves a whole segment of its population, as the public schools does black males, should examine its methods of serving them.

and correct you are that educating is done in the family environs, not at school. but also, sadly, many children are functionally homeless. what to do?

mrsam said...

Wonderful information my brother. I would say this, until black america comes back to a true saving knowledge of Jesus christ as Savior & Lord, this will continue. People might say that we have all these churches and mega ministries that are doing something? They are doing something socially but not spiritually for the black folks. Proper biblical theology is not being taught & the folks conitune in their debauchery. God Almighty will not lift up a people until they repent of their sins & black america has not done that.