School choice is a civil rights issue

Why does America tolerate this?

In his commentary Dumbest Generation Getting Dumber, Walter E. Williams reports on some new research about our public schools:

McKinsey & Company, in releasing its report “The Economic Impact of the Achievement Gap in America’s Schools” (April 2009) said, “Several other facts paint a worrisome picture. First, the longer American children are in school, the worse they perform compared to their international peers. In recent cross-country comparisons of fourth grade reading, math, and science, US students scored in the top quarter or top half of advanced nations. By age 15 these rankings drop to the bottom half. In other words, American students are farthest behind just as they are about to enter higher education or the workforce.” That’s a sobering thought. The longer kids are in school and the more money we spend on them, the further behind they get.

Williams reports that for black and Latino students, the situation is far worse, with these students being two or three years behind in learning. It’s such a problem that even traditional black leadership is noticing:

Al Sharpton called school reform the civil rights challenge of our time. He said that the enemy of opportunity for blacks in the U.S. was once Jim Crow; today, in a slap at the educational establishment, he said it was “Professor James Crow.” Sharpton is only partly correct. School reform is not solely a racial issue; it’s a vital issue for the entire nation.

We need the type of competition in education that school choice provides. In Kansas, the public school lobby — firmly opposed to even the gentlest of reforms such as charter schools — retains its firm grip.

Wichita and Kansas schools claim years of rising test scores. But when we get test results that the Kansas school bureaucracy doesn’t control, we find that test scores are flat. There’s a discrepancy there that needs investigation.

In the meantime, schoolchildren, especially minority children, remain stuck in a failing system.

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