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Governor Palin’s Policies and the Black Community; Part III: School Choice





During the month of February, I have been focusing on how Governor Palin has a pulse on the issues that are of particular relevance to the Black community, unlike this current Obama administration. Previously, I tackled both abortion and unemployment. The abortion issue is especially vital, as it is killing off the Black population, and if embracing the pro-life message is the heart of our survival, then our education, without a doubt, is the brain.

School choice is one of those issues to which we return repeatedly–and for good reason. As a public school teacher, I realize people are interested in where I stand on this issue, just as they are interested in where I stand on the Wisconsin situation. The answer is simple: I stand on the side of kids. Period. I’m no perfect person; therefore, I’m no perfect teacher. However, I didn’t get into the profession for any reason other than kids. Therefore, they must remain the top priority. I am not in debt to unions, teachers, or systems that work against the success of students. I firmly believe that students need to be given every possible opportunity to succeed, and for many, the public school simply doesn’t cut it. This is why school choice is so important.

It certainly isn’t news that giving parents choices in their children’s education opens up avenues otherwise closed. It creates opportunities for children to blossom, and isn’t that what education is all about?

Governor Palin understands the power of choice when it comes to educating our children. As far back as her run for governor, in the Palin-Parnell 2006 campaign booklet, New Energy for Alaska, she stated:

My administration will support existing programs that already offer alternative school options available throughout the state, including charter schools, rural boarding schools, home school options, correspondence schools, and vocational/technical, and magnet schools.

The booklet also points out:

Sarah supports parental choice so that parents can choose what is best for their children — vocational training, a public school, charter school, private school or home schooling.

As C4P reported here, Governor Palin was not able to advocate for vouchers as governor because it’s unconstitutional in Alaska. Her inability to push for vouchers in her home state does not indicate an absence of support for it at the national level, however; it was an issue of the Alaska Constitution which she was sworn to uphold. Her record is clear that as governor she took very seriously upholding the Constitution, even when she personally disagreed.

Now, as a common sense voice for issues of importance beyond the state of Alaska, issues of national relevance, the Governor has recently weighed in once again on education, showing her support for school choice. After President Obama’s State of the Union Address, she wrote:

Of course, it’s nice to give a speech calling for “investment” and “competition” in order to reach greatness. It’s quite another thing to advocate and implement policies that truly encourage such things. Growing the federal government is not the answer.

Take education for example. It’s easy to declare the need for better education, but will throwing even more money at the issue really help? As the Cato Institute’s Michael Tanner notes, “the federal government has increased education spending by 188 percent in real terms since 1970 without seeing any substantial improvement in test scores.” If you want “innovation” and “competition,” then support school choice initiatives and less federal control over our state and local districts.

The Governor is correct in pointing to Tanner’s comments, for the link between educational success and educational choice is clear. The Heritage Foundation has been all over this issue. A few months ago, they released the following:

A new study released this week by the Department of Education’s Institute for Education Sciences found that participation in the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program “raised a student’s probability of completing high school by 12 percentage points, from 70 percent to 82 percent, based on parent reports.” The news is a victory for school choice and education reform advocates across the country. Patrick Wolf, lead researcher at the University of Arkansas School Choice Demonstration Project, said:

These results are important because high school graduation is strongly associated with a large number of important life outcomes such as lifetime earnings, longevity, avoiding prison and out-of-wedlock births, and marital stability.

As I’ve pointed out in the previous two topics I’ve taken on during this series in February, if these issues are important within the country at large, they are absolutely vital within the Black community. And where does President Obama stand on this issue? We need look no further than D.C., where Blacks are drowning in failing schools, to see the need for school choice and to also see the President’s response.

The Heritage Foundation tells us:

The D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program has provided a lifeline for low-income students out of failing and dangerous D.C. public schools—some of the worst in the nation—by giving them the chance to attend a private or charter school of their choice. However, after Obama was elected in fall of 2008, Congress quickly began to dissemble this program. In 2009, 216 students had received scholarships for the upcoming school year, only to have them rescinded shortly thereafter by the Administration. Then, Congress blocked new students from entering the program. Today, the 1,210 that remain are left to wonder if funding will continue beyond 2011.

Despite research showing the success of students in this program, President Obama has done nothing to stand up for them. Evaluations show that 91 percent of students who participate in this program graduate from high school, compared to 70 percent of their peers with similar characteristics. Contrast this with the average D.C. high school graduation rate of 49 percent. Beyond improved academic attainment, these students are able to escape the high rates of violence in D.C. public schools.

As Kevin Chavous, head of the Black Alliance for Educational Opportunity, told The Wall Street Journal earlier this month: “All presidents have the bully pulpit. … This president in particular has the power to change hearts and minds instantly.”

Yet President Obama has remained silent while children just like those portrayed in Waiting for Superman could be benefiting from school choice.

While the idea of a superhero coming to save the nation’s schools is far-fetched, it doesn’t take a “man of steel” who can “leap tall buildings in a single bound” to save the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program.

For now, D.C. kids are waiting.

Frances Reid, Chairman of The National Black Republican Association, holds back nothing as she blasts President Obama’s lack of commitment to school choice and the impact on the Black community:

With not one scintilla of shame, President Barack Obama continuously blocks all efforts to provide school choice opportunity scholarships for poor black children that would help them get out of failed inner-city schools. Obama’s total lack of concern about the plight of the poor is stunning, but not surprising in light of his socialist ideology and slavish loyalty to teachers’ unions who put their own selfish economic interest above the basic educational needs of poor blacks.

Ignoring the tears and pleas of black students, Obama terminated the school choice program in the District of Columbia in his 2011 budget, sending impoverished children back into the failed DC public school system where they are not even being taught to read, write and do simple math. This lack of basic skills needed for employment and prosperity provides the toxic fuel for the deplorable conditions in black inner-city communities. In those urban cesspools there is staggering school truancy and black-on-black crime, ranging from rape, car-jacking, drug-trafficking, theft and murder. Seventy-percent of black babies are born out of wedlock, the school drop-out rate is over fifty-percent and the unemployment rate is an incredible seventeen-percent.

The documented crisis in black communities stirs no emotional reaction in Obama. Undoubtedly, the disgraceful situation in black neighborhoods is the direct result of the disastrous socialist policies of Democrats who have been running those communities for the past 60 years. Even more contemptible is the fact that Obama and his fellow Democrats have built their power base on the backs of poor blacks and readily engage in the despicable practice of race-baiting and victim mongering to win elections.

While Obama is busily catering to teachers’ unions for his own partisan political gain, black parents are frantically trying to elevate the worth of their children’s education. Sadly, a low-income mother in Ohio, Kelley Williams-Bolar who got her daughters into a quality school outside of her district of residence, was prosecuted, convicted and sentenced severely because she did not comply with the strict letter of the law. This desperate act by a loving mother, which resulted in her being deemed a criminal, demonstrates clearly that black parents do, indeed, want their children to be well-educated.

The untenable public school status quo has resulted in parents binding together in groups around the country in a quest to obtain educational reform and parental choice. One such organization is the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO), and that group can be found on the Internet at: www.baeo.org. The National Black Republican Association supports this effort and urges all concerned citizens to join the cause and help ensure a better, brighter future for all of America’s children, especially the disadvantaged.

Those on the Left are so quick to accuse conservatives, particularly tea partiers like Governor Palin, of being racists. So where are they on this issue? We know exactly where they are: they continue to fight against those who stand to benefit most from parental choice in children’s education, keeping them locked in failed institutions that promote failed futures. Meanwhile President Obama, whom they love to hail as the First Black President (those who haven’t bestowed that honor on Bill Clinton, that is), sits idly by while choice–and opportunities–are snatched away from our children.

This is not the type of policy that America can afford to promote. The results are devastating to all Americans–the feeling of hopelessness leads to dropouts, which lead to unemployment, which leads to crime, which affects the family, which affects the next generations. It becomes an all-too-familiar sickening cycle. Bring on a leader who is not in bed with special interests or unions, who understands how to serve and who does it for the right reasons. Bring on Governor Palin. Our future depends on it.

** Read my earlier posts on how Governor Palin’s policies would impact the issues of abortion and unemployment within the Black community here and here.



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