Obama's War on Black Education

Notorious for being violent, under-performing laggards, D.C. public schools have among the highest dropout and lowest graduation rates in the country. In 2007, D.C.'s 4th and 8th grade students scored lower than children from all 50 states on the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP). Fewer than half of children in D.C, public schools rated "proficient"!

So President G.W. Bush signed the D.C. School Choice Incentive Act, creating a program to provide scholarships to students from low-income families to attend a private school of their choice. This program targeted 2,000 children from low-income families in Washington D.C. In 2008 the program funded attendance at 54 D.C.-area private schools.


In one of his first acts as President in March of 2009, Barack Obama signed the $410 billion omnibus spending bill in to law. Buried in that bill was an appeasement to the teacher's unions that helped put him into the White House; an amendment that killed the District of Columbia's school voucher program, then known as the "D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program."  Over 94% of the participating families in the D.C. voucher program were black families. The immensely successful program allowed parents of children in failing, inner-city schools to send their children elsewhere.


Not only did the amendment kill the program, but the language was included to prohibit any new students from receiving scholarships too. The president rescinded the scholarships set to go to 214 families in the 2010 school year. Of those 214 families, 214 were black households. 


And now through his Justice Department, President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder are again seeking to restrict poorer, inner-city black families to under-performing inner-city schools.  In 2008 Louisiana lawmakers approved a voucher program for low-income New Orleans students who were in failing schools. The "Louisiana Scholarship Program" (later expanded statewide) allows children in school districts graded C, D or F to receive public money to attend private schools. In papers filed in U.S. District Court in New Orleans, the Justice Department said Louisiana distributed vouchers in 2012-13 to nearly 600 public school students.


Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal (R) called the action "shameful" and said President Obama and A.G. Holder "are trying to keep kids trapped in failing public schools against the wishes of their parents." In a news release he added,


"The Obama administration thinks parents should have to seek their approval [to] send their child to a school of [the parent's] choice. After generations of being denied a choice, parents finally can choose a school for their child, but now the federal government is stepping in to prevent parents from exercising this right. Shame on them."


State Education Superintendent John White told the Times-Picayune that almost all the students using vouchers are black and also said it's ironic that rules established to combat racism were being called on to keep black students in failing schools.


In all walks of life competition benefits the consumer. Education is no exception. If parents begin using a school-choice option to pull children from an under-performing school, the loss of those pupils also means the loss of money associated with them. That hits the school and school district in the pocketbook and forces it to get better or continue to hemorrhage funding. It's amazing how quickly an enterprise improves itself when dollars are being lost. Yet this administration flatly refuses to allow any form of competition to threaten the teachers union's (to which it is beholden) stranglehold on their educational monopoly in black communities. Even if it means giving the shaft to the black families in that community.


Some 600 black kids in Louisiana are about to be forced back into under-performing schools.  This is the thanks blacks in America get for twice giving this president over 90% of our votes? Death blow after death blow to our children? Today's youth will be tasked with surviving in a world ever more expectant of education, ever more demanding of technical skills -- and the president is sentencing them to a sub-par education in failing facilities and placing hurdles in what paths they may have middle and upper-classes, economic freedom and prosperity.


This begs the question, "Why would and could the president do this?" Simple -- because as an electorate, we blacks in America are completely predictable. The president and Democrats have no political risk, no chance of being held accountable. These moves contain no calculated gamble wherein pollsters and handlers have to gauge the potential loss of votes such a cold-hearted maneuver could result in.  Their models no doubt read something like this;

"Likely percent of black vote before killing voucher program = 94.5%."

"Likely percent of black vote after killing voucher program = 94.5%."


Because we are predictable, we can be treated like the proverbial battered wife. Slapped around, bruised, humiliated and disrespected yet doomed to more of the same because we have a husband whom time has taught that we will always keep coming back for more.


Many if not most inner-city metropolitan schools in this nation are under-performing dinosaurs. Buildings are antiquated, budgets are strapped and teachers are tenured (aka: can't be fired and they know it). Many are passing kids through to the next grade despite the fact they're not performing at a grade-appropriate level because moving students through the system equals an in-flow of state and/or federal money.


In no small number of these schools there's high drop out rates, gang activity, drug trafficking, and rampant adolescent sexual activity. Teen pregnancy rates are high, drop out rates higher. Not to mention violence. Parents cannot be assured their children won't be shot, stabbed or beaten up let alone get a decent education. Children being approached by drug dealers en route to or from school is common place in many of these neighborhoods.


Our president's solutions?  Rather than use taxpayer money to introduce competition, to give parents the alternative of sending their children to another, superior school for safety and a better education, the president wants to use that same taxpayer money to ensure our children have an adequate supply of condoms and ready access to morning-after abortion pills, just in case one of them gets pregnant and could be "punished with a baby."


It's high time we in the black community set aside partisan favoritism and be willing to come together as one voice to call out injustices and raw deals, regardless which side of the aisle those deals come from. Continuing to give Democrats in general; this president in specific, a pass simply because they're democrats is costing us our children's futures! 


Derrick Wilburn is an author, political activist and public speaker. He's founder and Chairman of the Rocky Mountain Black Conservatives and the American Conservatives of Color. www.blackandconservative.com dwilburn@acofc.com