(NNPA)—As parents, families and communities are preparing for “Back to School” sales and special programs, it is critically urgent once again to raise the question about the quality of the education of Black children in America, as well as the quality of education for all children. No disrespect is intended to anyone, but the sheer reality that Black children have the highest school dropout rates and the lowest scores on various national and regional standardized academic achievement tests demands that Black parents and others speak out, mobilize and take a stronger stance concerning establishing more effective educational options that will provide the highest quality education for Black children.
Carter G. Woodson’s classic book, “The Mis-Education of the Negro,” first published in 1933 has particular relevance for more than 45 million Black Americans across the United States today in 2011. Woodson was very critical of the educational system in the United States because it systematically denied Black children a quality education inclusive of a truthful and accurate history of Black people in America and throughout the world. If Woodson were alive today, he would be even more angry and disgusted with the severe punitive magnitude and gross disservice that the current traditional school system has done to Black students and families. Black parents especially today have to move to the forefront to demand more options and alternatives to the many failed school systems across the nation.
Black people have not failed the school systems of today. But it is an irrefutable fact that the majority of the current traditional school systems have failed Black Americans. Black parental responsibility first and foremost is to establish and secure the highest quality education for Black children. Without apology Black parents cannot afford to permit the education interests of our children to be triage by those who have become complacent and implicated in this massive education crisis. This is the civil rights issue that should be at the top of the agenda of all our national, regional and local organizations. Simply put, there is nothing more important than the education of our children.
The following are two organizations that are providing a clear delineation of viable options for Black parents and others concerning how to establish, fund and maintain a more effective educational experience for school chidren. The mission the Black Alliance for Educational Options is to increase access to high-quality educational options for Black children by actively supporting parental choice policies and programs that empower low-income and working-class Black families. The mission of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools to lead public education to unprecedented levels of academic achievement for all students by fostering a strong charter sector. Both BAEO and the NAPCS are committed to advance the public and legislative awareness and support for providing real opportunities for parents who want the best educational experience for their children.
The good news is that African-American awareness that charter schools are in fact “public” schools is on an increase nationwide thanks to the efforts of BAEO and NAPCS. A recent poll by Gallup revealed that seven out of 10 Americans now support public charter schools. Not all charter schools are equal. The important here is that there are some high achieving public charter schools in the nation that are doing and excellent job in educating Black children. Those are the types of public charter schools that need to be replicated and established across the nation. The Black community needs success models that provide accountable solutions to the educational crisis concerning Black and other under-served communities.
Black legislators in numerous states are now proposing public charter school laws in response to this civil rights education issue. We need remedies and solutions that have a proven track record of academic success and progress. It is encouraging to witness a growing movement that is gaining momentum for parental choice. The effectiveness of the Civil Rights Movement going forward will continue to be contingent on a strong grass roots base. Black parents are increasingly taking the lead in renewing this movement for educational change.
The call to action is to ignite a massive grass roots effort and movement to demand the highest quality education for all children, but in particular for Black children who have suffered the most from the failures of the traditional school systems. Let’s decide that we all will become involved. Let’s put the interests of our children’s education first. Now is the time to rise up and make a difference. Let’s act together and work harder because our children deserve the best education.
(Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr. is senior advisor to the Black Alliance for Educational Options and president of Educational Online Services Corporation.)