(NNPA)—Now that the economy in the United States continues to improve each month, there is an open question that remains concerning the economic empowerment status of Black Americans in 2011. But there is a prior question that will have both short term and long range implications for the economic future of Black Americans. Unless we do more now to acquire the best education possible for our children, there will not be a significant economic recovery in the African-American community. We have to be more aware and active to demand nothing less than the best for our children. There are just too many African-American young people who are attending some of the least performing schools across America. Another school year is about to end and the national report card is not good.
There is a crisis in the public education system throughout the United States. Study after study, statistic after statistic, and analysis after analysis all point to the fact that there are too many schools that are failing Black children on a daily basis. We cannot and should not be complacent about this situation. Something corrective and transformative must be done and it must be done now. Black parents, in particular, need to be at the forefront of the rapidly increasing School Choice Movement. The mission of 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 families.
It is important to emphasize that “school choice” places parents in charge of their children’s education. Black parents should always have the choice of selecting the best schools for their children, public or private. Some affluent parents exercise school choice more readily because they have the financial means to do so. Parents who can afford it simply do not permit their children to attend a failed school. They often decide to move to a certain neighborhood because of the quality of a high-performance traditional public school or that neighborhood has a high-performance innovative public charter school. Other parents, those who can afford it, send their children to high-quality private schools. But for the vast majority of Black American parents who are marginal middle-class or low-come and working-class, they cannot afford to move to better neighborhoods or to pay for private school tuition, according to the National School Choice advocates who believe that all children should have the opportunity to go to better schools; private schools via opportunity scholarships (most commonly called school vouchers), special needs scholarship programs, and scholarship tax credit programs. While this book focuses on those three reforms in particular, advocates also believe that states should eliminate barriers preventing the growth of high-quality charter schools, virtual schools, online learning options, and home schooling.
(Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr. is senior advisor for the Black Alliance for Educational Options and president of Education Online Services Corp.)