A former Black Lives Matter leader’s case for school choice

Charter schools New Orleans
Charter schools New Orleans

Education is key to having any chance at a decent life in this country, especially if you’re black, brown, or native. That’s why all parents should be able to choose scholarship and rigor at whatever school meets the needs of their child.

I don’t advocate privatizing the entire education system, despite what the billion dollar teachers’ union industry, NAACP, and Black Lives Matter may tell you.

{mosads}My daughter attends a traditional public school because I’m satisfied with the education it gives her. I’m a black father who wants the best education for my child and yours. That’s why, after leading Black Lives Matter St. Paul, Minn., I left the organization over their call to eliminate charter schools.  

The opportunity gap in traditional public schools is continuing to grow and I have yet to meet a parent who has said they would rather keep their child at a school where only one-third of its fourth graders are reading at grade level, or a school where black, brown, and native students are suspended and expelled at five times the rate of their representation in the community, than to be able to have the option to choose scholarship at a better school that meets the needs of their child.

Many public schools across the country are failing to educate black, brown, and native students at an alarming rate, which is why charter schools, private schools, and parochial schools are catching the interest of black, brown, and native parents across the country.

Parents like myself are tired of the feeling that our children are being held hostage by political forces like teachers’ unions who want us all to believe that black, brown, and native students are incapable of learning because of poverty, and bad parenting.

We are tired of hearing those who say that more money is the solution to the education problem. Our economic means do not determine how intelligent our children will be — my grandmother wasn’t a bad parent because she worked long hours to put food on the table and was unable to attend our school conferences. Regardless, plenty of money has been poured into education and yielded little positive results.

Parents know what is best for their child, which is why we see a lot of black, brown, native, and even low-income white parents leaving traditional public schools for public charter schools, or private or parochial schools if they can afford it. With the horrific data that is coming out of traditional public schools across the country, it is clear that parents want and need school choice; and those parents who already have it are seeing their children make academic strides.

Consider Washington, D.C. More than half of charter school students are proficient in math and reading in that city, while just under half of the students in traditional public schools are proficient. In New Orleans, La., twice as many students go to college after the state began relying on charter schools than before they made the transition.

A parent should have the right to choose what’s best for their child’s education. That sounds like a common sense statement to me, which is why I refuse to accept the arguments that school choice is wrong because it takes money out of the traditional public school system; that school choice scholarships don’t cover the cost of tuition at private/parochial schools; that charter schools don’t do any better; and that it’s a billionaire’s movement, and not from the grassroots.

Those are a few of the falsehoods that are part of the tricks by the teachers’ union and the misleadership of the NAACP.

Let me debunk those points for you: If a school is not doing it’s job by meeting the needs of your child, you should be able to leave that school. Why should a school get paid for not doing its job?

If a student receives a school-choice scholarship to cover the tuition at a private or parochial school, tax credits allow the new school to make up the difference in tuition for low income families who qualify for the scholarship.

Furthermore, there are many charter schools who provide a school environment that is far more conducive to black, brown, native, and low-income white students. Parents know this, that’s why there are tens of thousands of students on charter-school waitlists in some cities.

Lastly, I’m about 999 million away from being a billionaire; I’m a grassroots minded parent; a 31 year old black man who puts students first, and who believes in high quality education for all.

I’m not a part of the black misleadership who says no to school choice, while at the same time sending their children to the top private schools. I’m not about the right wing, or the left wing, I’m about the right ‘thing’ for students. Because, after all, how can Black Lives Matter if Black Minds don’t?

Turner (@rashadsrepublic) is an EdReformer, human rights activist and a former local leader for Black Lives Matter St. Paul, Minn.

The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.

Tags Education Education reform NAACP School Students teachers teachers' unions
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