Wed, 4 March 2009
A Black Agenda Radio commentary from Glen Ford
“There were no significance differences between DC students that used vouchers to attend private school, and those who applied for vouchers but wound up going to public schools.”
The private school vouchers program imposed on Washington, DC by Republican thuggery back in 2003, seems headed for the trash bin. Tucked inside the giant federal spending package recently passed by Congress are provisions that should effectively cut off funds to what Republicans saw as a national showcase for their school privatization plans. Congress has advised DC’s schools chancellor to begin making preparations to accommodate voucher students in the public schools at the end of the 2009-2010 school year.
Private school vouchers and Faith-Based Initiatives were George Bush’s principal programs to split the Black vote, and to give the impression that African Americans were moving to the political Right. School vouchers had the added potential to exploit divisions between African Americans and teachers unions. The parents and voters of Washington had repeatedly registered their opposition to school vouchers, but the Republicans persisted, and finally stooped to the worst of dirty tricks to get their way. In September of 2003, while most of the Congressional Black Caucus was in Baltimore at a Caucus-sponsored presidential candidate debate, Republicans in control of the House staged a surprise vote on their DC school voucher bill. Voucher opponents, including a number of Black congresspersons, couldn’t get back to Capitol Hill in time, and the Republicans prevailed by one vote.
“The parents and voters of Washington had repeatedly registered their opposition to school vouchers, but the Republicans persisted.”
What had begun at the turn of the millennium as the brainchild of rightwing corporations and think tanks, had under George Bush morphed into a publicly funded project. With Washington, DC as its educational guinea pig, the school voucher propaganda and money machines went into high gear, in hopes of creating a nationwide pro-voucher movement, especially among Blacks.
But last year, with the Democrats in control of Congress, the Bush Education Department was compelled to do a study, which found that there were no significance differences between DC students that used vouchers to attend private school, and those who applied for vouchers but wound up going to public schools. The voucher students themselves rated their experiences in private schools as no more satisfying than the kids who went to public schools. The only real differences registered were among the parents of voucher students, who felt their children were safer than in the public schools.
Even if the Democrats stick to their guns and dismantle the school voucher program in Washington, the Republicans and other school privatizers have succeeded in convincing much of the general public that African Americans favor vouchers. In fact, the preponderance of evidence says otherwise. In every survey, when urban voters are given multiple choices on what they would prefer occur in education, most opt for increased resources to public schools, over vouchers for private academies.
For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to www.BlackAgendaReport.com.
BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.