I would like to believe that if the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. were alive, he would be fighting for school choice. I would like to think that he would be so angry with the teachers’ unions and their antics over the past two years in holding our kids’ educations hostage that he would be marching right along with his son Martin Luther King III and niece, Dr. Alveda C. King, for more educational choices, not fewer.
Next week, the left will invoke Dr. King’s name and use his words to justify their radical agenda from a federal voting rights bill to woke math education reform to defunding police and explaining away the riots of 2020.
Liberals want society to advance equity — not equality — in every sphere of life.
As the actions of Black Lives Matter (BLM) have demonstrated, it’s all a means to expand political power for one party.
Equality, which Dr. King fought for, pursues real and fair progress for all, regardless of skin color. Education is the most fundamental equalizer and the best way to develop, both productive and moral citizens.
Dr. King’s descendants are school-choice advocates and if we’re serious about moving society forward, conservatives and liberals should pursue school choice too.
In 2015, King III joined a Florida school rally to explain his support for school choice. “What choice does is essentially create options, particularly for poor and working families that they would not necessarily normally have.” He also explained why he thought his father would support school choice alongside reforming the traditional public school system: “To me, it’s not an either-or; it’s a both-and.”
As a Black parent with a child in public school, I’m a huge advocate for parents having access to as many options in their children’s education as possible.
School choice is a critical element in making this happen. It offers parents greater control over a child’s education by breaking the link between residence and school.
It additionally serves as a means of accountability for the local education system.
By introducing competition into this equation, perhaps public schools will do their best to provide the educational environment that attracts student dollars.
King hit on an important point. Some parents want to send their children to public schools for varied reasons. That should be their choice.
Socio-economic situations matter here.
Families pay a premium to buy into a neighborhood with a top public school system or a high-performing public school.
They may sacrifice square footage and yard space so that their child can attend a blue-ribbon elementary school. Having the spending power to live anywhere one desires is liberating; but ask yourselves: how many parents have that financial freedom, especially Black and minority families?
For parents who can’t relocate to better school systems, voucher programs and tax credits can provide scholarships or government funding for children to attend private schools. Not only are these forms of school choice popular overall, but they are wildly popular among Black and Hispanic families.
Charter schools offer parents the best of both worlds.
These high-quality public schools maintain operational autonomy that allows them the freedom to innovate with their teaching styles, focuses, and curricula.
As a result, children flourish.
Black students in charter schools have made significant learning gains over their peers in traditional public schools. Unfortunately, there are often long waiting lists for charter schools; that’s why we need more of them.
We can support reforming public schools to deliver better outcomes for students. If they fail to deliver, give families the financial ability to opt out. The past two years should underscore the need for such an agreement with parents.
The disruptiveness of virtual education promulgated by teachers’ unions as a tool to score more benefits at the bargaining table is not forgotten by parents.
No wonder charter schools experienced more growth in the first full year of the pandemic than in the past six years, according to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.
Before the pandemic, there was a significant case for greater choice in education to truly help Black, minority, and poor students in America.
Now, the case for educational freedom for everyone is undeniable.
We will not end racial disparities in employment, income, wealth, homeownership, and other measures if we can’t give children the tools to rise above their circumstances.
School choice offers kids of every stripe, but especially Black children, the chance to gain a strong education that will set them up for mobility and success in the future.
I’d like to see today’s social justice fighters take a page from the King family and channel energy to giving parents choice in education, including a way to escape failing, union-beholden public schools.