Monday, September 09, 2013

Obama and Holder fight needed equal opportunity for black children.

"it’s bewildering, if not downright perverse, for the Obama administration to use the banner of civil rights to bring a misguided suit that would block these disadvantaged students from getting the better educational opportunities they are due."

--Washington Post editorial

“Bewildering,” “perverse” from the Obama-friendly Washington Post. And the Post is right. Democrats pose as the party of minorities, and preach education as the path to success. So why are Obama and the Justice Department suing to block Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal’s effort to help blacks get a better education?

In the governor’s words:
The Justice Department has challenged my state in court for having the temerity to start a scholarship program that frees low-income minority children from failing schools. . . Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder would rip children out of their schools and handcuff them to the failing schools they previously attended. And, in the ultimate irony, they are using desegregation orders set up to prevent discrimination against minority children to try to do it.
Never mind that 90% of the children receiving scholarships in Louisiana are minorities or that 100% of their parents choose to apply for these scholarships. . . a disproportionate share of those in poverty are minorities. Studies of health-care outcomes, incarceration levels and economic opportunity all show that education is key to improving quality of life.
Louisiana’s school choice program began in 2008, first in Katrina-ravaged New Orleans, then throughout the state. Under the program, only low-income families with children in poor schools qualify for scholarships that send children to schools of their choice. In the past two years, students previously trapped in failing schools showed improvement on literacy and math tests, with the share performing at grade level rising 7%, even though 60% taking the test this year had been at new schools only 8 months. Not surprisingly, more than 90% of their parents reported satisfaction with their children’s new schools.

Rich Lowry, editor of the conservative National Review, is similarly outraged by the Obama Justice Department action. As Lowry explains it:
The Justice Department petition harkens back to a 40-year-old desegregation case involving state-aided white flight to private schools. That case led to a court order forbidding Louisiana from providing assistance to private schools, meant to frustrate desegregation. The document’s description of the noxiousness of past practices is quite compelling — but for the fact that it’s not 1975 anymore. Louisiana has an Indian-American governor, Bobby Jindal, who manifestly cares about the quality of education for everyone — a sentiment that the racial obsessives at Justice evidently can’t understand. [emphasis added]
the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice notes that almost every empirical study finds “that school choice moves students from more segregated schools into less segregated schools.” Since the advent of a voucher program in Milwaukee, the city’s private schools are only 35% white, whereas they used to be 75% white.
I believe strongly that 1) education reform is nearly our top priority, and 2) reform won’t come from within the public union-run Democratic Party. So it’s heartening for me to see the Washington Post fighting back. And encouraging as well to read Sarah Garland’s article in the progressive Atlantic. Garland writes:
the test-score gap between the children of the poor (in the 10th percentile of income) and the children of the wealthy (in the 90th percentile) has expanded by as much as 40% and is now more than 50% larger than the black-white achievement gap—a reversal of the trend 50 years ago. Underprivileged children now languish at achievement levels that are close to four years behind their wealthy peers.
middle-class children are also falling further behind their affluent peers. The test-score gap between middle-income (the 50th percentile of income) and poor children has remained stagnant; it’s the gap between the top earners and the rest that is growing rapidly. . . more poor and middle-income children are completing college these days, [yet] they can’t keep up with the growth in college graduates among the wealthiest families. . . more and more seats in highly selective schools [are] occupied by students from high-income families.
We have been arguing the fault line in America is one of class, not race. Now Garland, a liberal, says the same thing. Here’s the truth: thinking people know a poor white needs help more than a privileged black. But here’s another truth: when your coalition is built upon the public sector unions, shored up by minorities and unmarried women, you don’t dare let victimization by race or sex fade as major issues. Reform will have to come from outside the Democrats’ core coalition.

In her article, Garland builds sympathy for working class families stuck with poor schools by telling us about Larry and Krystal (who are, incidentally, black):
Larry works for the city’s medical-examiner office as a computer technician, and Krystal has stayed home with the boys since New York City laid her off from her job as an operator for its information hotline. [They] want their boys to be more successful than they have been. . .
Opportunities that would launch the boys on a path to being lawyers or doctors can seem elusive, however. Larry, a product of the New York City public schools, refuses to send his children to any of the poorly performing public schools in the neighborhood. They can’t afford Catholic school tuition—about $5,000 a year, they say. Instead, Krystal has researched privately run charter schools in the area and picked out her top choice: an all-boys charter run by the network Uncommon Schools, which receives high marks on the city’s grading system but chooses students through a lottery—meaning they won’t necessarily get in.
Arrrgh! How can this country continue condemning working class children to bad neighborhood schools, instead of providing them the same school choice privileged families enjoy?

How long?!!

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