By Mike Tront
To oppose the appointment of Betsy DeVos to Secretary of Education, opponents have brought out the old race card. DeVos is seen as being open-minded to the idea of private schools. She desires that more parents should have the option of choosing private schools for their children. With that in mind, we get this opinion piece published by CNN, authored by Felicia Wong: A Vote For DeVos Is a Vote For Resegregation:
School choice is not really about freedom. Freedom, of course, is a bedrock American value. But the kind of “freedom” associated with the flight away from integration and toward racial isolation will never lead to a more truly free United States.
In her condemnation of private schools, Ms. Wong only makes one argument. She claims that private schools cause greater racial segregation.
She goes over the history of private schools in America, pointing out that after public schools were segregated in the 50’s and 60’s there was a boom in private schools. She also points out that even today, private schools tend to be more segregated than public schools.
Ms. Wong does have a very good point here. Private schools show a disturbing lack of minority student enrollment. It is a travesty that minority students don’t have the same access to quality, safe private schools that their white and Asian peers have access to. But what’s the reason for this? Is it because private schools are inherently racist and do their best to discourage non-Asian minority enrollment?
Minorities and Private Education
To find out why there is a lack of minorities in today’s private schools, I went right to the source linked in Ms. Wong’s above CNN article. From the source she linked to:
White and Asian students enroll in private schools at two times the rate of black and Latino students. Private school enrollment rates are much higher among middle- and high-income families than low-income families. Differences in white and minority private school enrollment rates contribute substantially to overall patterns of segregation in many local school markets.
Amazing that someone could read this and NOT realize what the problem is. In clear English it says that private schools are largely attended by middle and high-income families, not low-income families. Unfortunately, black and Latino families in America today have a much lower income than white and Asian families. It’s not racism that’s keeping minorities out of private schools, it’s lack of money.
Minorities and Public Education
Thankfully, Ms. Wong does point out that public schools are no bastion of opportunity for non-Asian minorities. From her article:
Now, American public schools are falling back into a kind of racial segregation that is reminiscent of our country before Brown. In the last 25 years, the number of severely racially isolated schools, defined as those with 0-10% white students, has tripled. In 2010 in New York City, 92% of black students and 88% of Latino students attended schools that were majority-minority, some of which see such severely racialized and concentrated poverty that they are dubbed “apartheid schools.”
Clearly, Ms. Wong can see that the current system is terribly flawed and often our most downtrodden suffer the most under it. This lower quality public education makes it harder for someone who happens to grow up in the wrong zip code to move up to a better zip code. The cycles continues. So what’s her solution? This is all she gives us:
So as senators consider DeVos’ nomination to oversee public education for every American child, they would do well to remember the deepest values of public schooling, as well as the deeper meaning of appointing a Secretary of Education associated with a more exclusive and racially exclusionary vision.
She doesn’t tell us how the Department of Education can foster a better, or more inclusive, public education system for minorities. She only alludes to the fact that DeVos is in favor of private solutions, and the current private solutions are out of reach of many non-Asian minorities, so they therefore must be racist.
Is Betsy DeVos The Solution For Minorities?
She is a step in the right direction, but she’s probably not the solution. As long as we have a massive, one-size-fits-all federal bureaucracy in charge of our children’s education, costs will continue to rise and quality will continue to fall. Especially in our poorest communities. There’s just too many special interests who stand to loose too much money if the system is significantly changed in any way. So relax DeVos opponents, even if she tries her best to allow children to escape their zip codes for a better education, bureaucratic stagnation and special interest lobbyists will likely halt any progress.
However, if the Department of Education does miraculously allow public school students and their parents to escape the system with some kind of Voucher Program or Education Savings Account Program, it will result in more integration. Not less. Not to mention more choices and competition in the education field. Like any field that allows choice and competition to flourish, i.e. electronics and cell phones, prices go down and quality goes up.
But how will this help non-Asian minorities specifically, Ms. Wong may ask? Since zip codes and pay checks will no longer determine where their children are forced to go to school, any parent could choose to enroll in any school. Sure, there will still be elite secondary schools that only the very wealthy will be able to attend, and they will probably be largely white and Asian like they are today, but if this generation of black and Latino children could just get a chance at escaping their “apartheid schools,” the next generation will be able to afford to send their kids anywhere they choose, even the most elite and expensive private schools.
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