Fifty-three years ago, 6-year-old Ruby Bridges walked into William Franz School under armed guard by federal marshals and desegregated it. At that time, Bridges had the support of the National Association of Colored People and the U.S. Supreme Court. Her bravery led to widespread acceptance of blacks into whites-only public educational facilities. Yet decades later, millions of black children are still trapped in failing, racially segregated inner city schools. What happened to the dreams of integration?
The Organization for Cooperation and Economic Development reports statistics for school children that show we haven’t yet realized the lofty goals that America’s parents were promised. While America spends more per pupil than any other developed nation, our results leave much to be desired in comparison. U.S. students rank 31st in math and 23rd in science according to the Program for International Student Assessment.
When calculating education spending as a part of gross domestic product, only Denmark spends more; in 2010 America spent 7.5 percent of gross domestic product on education. At $620 billion in 2013-14 total spending per pupil on K-12 public education was around $12,296. When spending on programming such as vocational training is factored in, we are number one in per pupil expenditure. American teachers are similarly situated; they out earn their cohorts in every other nation.
As grim as these statistics are, the results for America’s black students are even worse. Black students trail their white counterparts in every metric. The two assessments used to compile data on students; National Assessment of Educational Progress and Long Term Trend show that American students may have the right to integration, but the actual execution yields very unequal outcomes.
For students trapped in poverty, there is no means of escaping failing inner city school systems. If you lack the money for private schools or the financial means to move to a better suburban district, too bad. In answer to this dilemma, charter schools have popped up in St. Louis, becoming very popular with parents and students.
Polling shows that school choice, including charter schools, is very popular among black parents with children in failing inner-city schools. Yet here in St. Louis, the NAACP has issued a multi-point resolution against the growing charter school program that serves black and white students within the city limits. The association’s resolution asserts a number of facts not in evidence, but it’s point four that is quite telling: “Cease to perpetuate the de facto segregation of the highest performing children from those whose aspirations may be high but whose talents are not yet as obvious.”
What? Involved, attentive parents are pulling their children out of unaccredited, sometimes dangerous schools, and the NAACP’s response is to call it “de facto segregation”? That is ridiculous and forgets the wall of hate that little Ruby Bridges had to endure for an entire school year to give black students the right to attend any school they would like.
Let’s call this what it is: The NAACP is acting on behalf of the National Education Association, which sees charter schools as competition. Competition in education is an excellent motivator for better quality. When options for parents and students abound, the quality rises. But since teachers who work in charter schools are not required to be unionized, the NAACP apparently feels compelled to take a stand against them.
The NAACP resolution and the Democrats’ refusal to give inner-city parents school choice is yet another example of Democrats placing politics over the needs of people. Blacks vote for Democratic politicians in overwhelming numbers and in exchange for their vote, on the issue of education, the response is stay where you are, you have no choice.
Charters aren’t even the end goal for inner city parents. Many parents who don’t live in inner cities are interested in having their tax dollars follow the child to a private or parochial school of their choosing, so this fight is only beginning. President-elect Donald Trump has outlined an ambitious program to bring school choice to poverty stricken inner-city children, allowing them a means of escape from the stronghold of Democratic control. Local organizations such as the Children’s Educational Alliance of Missouri are leading the charge here locally. At some point America’s schoolchildren will achieve true educational integration and the means to that end is school choice.