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The Black Electorate Accepts False Choices On Education Reform

Few things are more disheartening to us than watching Black leaders and voters attempting to solve community problems with only the options that are offered by Republicans and Democrats. We can't think of a better example of this and the tragic results that follow, than the recent debate raging over education reform. Accepting a false dichotomy of options, Blacks have been led to believe that they must be either for or against public education or vouchers. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The reason why Blacks think the way the do about education is because the most outspoken and visible advocates of education reform in the Black community are Black surrogates for either the Republican Party or the Democratic Party or more specifically the White-led school choice movement and the White-led teachers' unions.

Make no mistake about it; Blacks are doing the bidding of those outside of the community on the issue of education reform.

The school choice movement, while filled with sincere White philanthropists is also loaded with individuals who wish to make millions off of the privatization of education. Their efforts dovetail nicely with those in the Republican Party who wish to make inroads in the Black community as well as make Democrats look bad on the education issue.

The teachers' unions, while filled with sincere White teachers is also loaded with individuals who only wish to save their jobs and get pay raises regardless to the performance of Black students in horrible schools. Their efforts dovetail nicely with those in the Democratic Party who appreciate the campaign contributions and votes that union coffers and organizers can provide.

But Blacks shouldn't make the interests of either group their chief concern. Blacks should want both improved public education and the opportunities provided by school choice. And they can have the best of what both sides have to offer. The two approaches are not mutually exclusive as advertised by both parties.

As we wrote, back in January, in "Can Bush Buy Triangulation With A $1500 Voucher?", the chief concern of both the Republican President and Democrats in Congress is to score political points. We saw months ago that Bush was offering his pathetic $1,500 voucher up as a sacrificial lamb to Democrats who, in exchange for Bush's dropping of the voucher, would agree to support his favored provisions for education reform. The current courtship of Senator Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts and President Bush typifies the deal-making. The whole process is a sham and so watered down by both sides that we don't see it reaching the young Black boys and girls who Republicans, who are supposedly color-blind, shamelessly refer to ad nauseam in their education pitches. Of course, these are the same Black children whose best interests White Democrats claim to represent.

But the bottom line is that nobody has told Blacks that they can't have both increased spending on public school construction and maintenance; increased performance standards for teachers; pay raises to attract new teachers as well as vouchers for students that attend consistently failing public schools. Blacks haven't been told that they can't have such because they have not even asked for such.

It is only a question of spending priorities.

If Black Republicans and Democrats could rid themselves of their destructive habit of only thinking inside of the little boxes constructed for them by their political parties, they would have easily been able to recognize that both sides have legitimate points and reasonable approaches to solving some of the problems that plague America's public education system. If these Black Republicans and Democrats were honest they would admit that they are at each other's throats partly because so few resources are being allotted by both parties to education, in general, or relative to other priorities.

Instead, the spending projects of the sacred military industrial complex and some ridiculous pork spending seem to be a higher priority to both parties than providing improved public schools and fully funded vouchers.

It took us about 30 minutes to identify the necessary resources to provide $50 billion in spending for public education as well as an additional $7 billion dollars, which would provide $6,500 vouchers to over 150,000 students, for 7 years! We then found another $7 billion to replace the money that public school advocates claim would be taken out of the public school system due to vouchers. We replace every single dollar taken out of any public school for every single year that a child leaves that school to take advantage of a voucher. And we only make the vouchers available after a school has failed various performance standards, including safety and yes, standardized tests. But, we still provide increased funding for that school and not a dime "leaves" that institution because of vouchers.

The $50 billion that we devote to public schools includes the $33 billion already devoted to reform by Congress, this year, and we throw in an additional $17 billion to fix more leaky roofs, buy more textbooks, build more schools and to provide pay raises to teachers.

Altogether, under our proposal, we provide an additional $31 billion dollars in order to improve public schools and to provide vouchers for 150,000 students for 7 years.

Where did we get our $31 billion?

$15 billion of it comes strictly from pork spending projects that have been identified by members of both parties. The remaining $16 billion comes from defense spending and specifically, the money currently being earmarked for a missile defense system. Already, $20 billion has gone into the coffers of Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, and TRW for long-term missile contracts.

We would end this dubious spending and apply the savings directly to our improved public schools/vouchers education initiative.

It took us only 30 minutes to find this money comprised of figures that are verified and accepted by both Democrats and Republicans alike.

It is one thing to say that you are against increased spending on vouchers and public schools. It is a brand new demonstration of arrogance, hypocrisy and partisan brain damage to say that you are against either effort to reform education while you simultaneously enrich military defense contractors for weapons that will never be used or which have not been proven to work.

And, in our opinion, It is the ultimate demonstration of the death of American politics to say that you are against vouchers and increased spending for public schools while you fund pork projects, paid for by the government, like these:

A grant of $107,000 to study the sex life of the Japanese quail.

$491,607 for a party to honor nine hundred employees of the Department of Agriculture.

$300,000 for the transcription for the oral history of Iowa labor unions.

A $1 million Utah study on how to cross the street.

$5.5 million for buses for the Salt Lake City 2002 Winter Olympics.

$13 million for a National Swine Research Center even though thirteen different federal facilities are doing the same work.

$1.2 million to replace the lobby marble, plus $600,000 for new Italian-designed desks, for the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, which gets $70 million a year from U.S. taxpayers.

$2.5 million to restore a railroad station in Thurmond, West Virginia. One problem: The town has a population of eight residents.

$900,000 to restore a German U505 submarine at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago.

$30 million for research on electric vehicles, which has now received $75 million for work that should be sponsored by the auto companies. Toyota is already marketing a combined electric-gas car.

$229,460 to study the sex life of houseflies.

Source: The Government Racket 2000 and Beyond by Martin L. Gross

To think that because of partisan loyalty, Black Democrats and Republicans, in particular, are putting such expenditures before providing the Black community with both vouchers and increased public school education is shameful.

Until Black leaders and the Black electorate see themselves as "Black" first and then as Republicans or Democrats, the Black community will always suffer from the dichotomy of false choices.

Cedric Muhammad

Tuesday, June 19, 2001

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The views and opinions expressed herein by the author do not necessarily represent the opinions or position of or Black Electorate Communications.

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