Choice in Education as a Civil Rights Issue

09/10/08 00:00:00    

By Michael Mealling

A Skribit suggestion asks “How can McCain justify linking education to civil rights as a single issue?” so I thought I'd dig into this one since it was one of the more interesting bits of his convention speech.

So why is it a civil rights issue? Mainly because “separate but equal” doesn't help if the school system itself sucks across the board. Brown vs Board of Education ruled that “separate but equal” was unconstitutional. The result is that all public schools were integrated. But that did nothing to guarantee that those would be good schools or that they would stay that way. In many cases the children were bussed to already under-performing schools. What the parents wanted, and the reason Brown was brought, was to give minority children a good education. Instead what we have now may be legalistically called equality of access but it is access to an inferior service. And, as before, the parents of minority children are powerless to move their child to a school that does provide a good education. And, as before, it is the government preventing them from doing so. The only difference is that the government is using financial controls as opposed to dogs and clubs. The government is now aggressively prosecuting parents for trying to put their kids into a good school. What kind of insanity makes that a crime?

The only way to actually achieve the original intent and spirit of what Brown was trying to accomplish is to open up the system to allow the parents to make the choices about which school their child will attend. This removes the government from the position of deciding who is allowed to go to which school.

What is truly sad is that Brown was needed to overcome racism. What is holding back school choice? Nothing but simple greed and inertia on the part of an antiquated and non-competitive public school administration. You would think the education of a child would be above those petty concerns.

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