TCS Daily


Black Flight

By Michael Strong - April 7, 2006 12:00 AM

While pundits and academics argue away, the quiet sucking sound you don't yet hear are African-American families leaving our public schools when allowed to do so.

In Minneapolis, public school officials now admit that black flight is a serious problem; the district enrollment is projected to be down to 33,000, from 48,000 in 2000, a 30% decrease, largely due to black students escaping to charter schools.[1] The Washington D.C. school district has lost 10,000 students in five years; 25% of D.C. students are now enrolled in charter schools.[2] A Rand Corporation study of charter schools in Texas and California discovered that in both states black students are significantly more likely to move to charter schools than are white students.[3] Although school choice opportunities are not necessarily snapped up instantly (growth in some voucher programs has been more gradual than originally expected), over time the momentum is unambiguously one of black flight away from public schools.

Respect for other people, if it is to mean anything, must include listening to their concerns and taking those concerns seriously. For more than a decade, inner city African-Americans have supported school choice at a much higher rate than have suburban whites (Republican soccer moms are a core anti-choice constituency). Heroic African-Americans such as Democratic State Representative Polly Williams and former Milwaukee Superintendent Howard Fuller crossed party lines to pioneer vouchers in Milwaukee.

Polly Williams describes the obstacles she faced in creating Milwaukee's voucher plan in 1990:

"They tried everything to stop me. After they were convinced choice couldn't be stopped, they tried to hijack the issue and came up with their own version of choice. It basically created another bureaucracy which would have supervised the whole choice process and strangled it. The Milwaukee Public Schools would have selected the students for the choice program, not the parents. Students would have been picked if they met enough of the seven negative criteria they set up. If you were in a family of alcoholics, had a brother in prison and a pregnant teenage sister, and were inarticulate, you would have been a perfect candidate for their choice plan. In other words, a program they hoped would fail.

"This fake choice plan was the product of a white, do-good liberal legislator named Barbara Nostein. Liberals backed her; they weren't for my bill. We finally won when we got 200 parents to testify for three hours in favor of my bill. In good conscience, my colleagues could not vote against those parents.

"None of the people who oppose my plan lack choice in education themselves. They have no idea what the lack of choice in education means, the damage it does when you have to go to an inferior school that will trap you for life."[4]

Sixteen years later the mainstream education establishment -- including teachers' unions and most academics -- continues to be unrelentingly hostile to school choice; a struggle is taking place right now to increase the number of vouchers so that more Milwaukee students can escape.

Unfortunately most "progressive" groups, although they claim to advocate for minorities, remain hostile to school choice. (La Raza is a major exception; Hispanics also leave for charter schools at much higher rates than whites, and La Raza, to its credit, has launched an aggressive campaign to support the creation of 50 charter schools in Latino neighborhoods.)

The common sense interpretation of the data is that inner city African-Americans want school choice. Why don't progressive organizations and the education establishment acknowledge this fact and respect the opinions of those they claim to serve?

Teachers' unions give heavily to Democrats over Republicans and are adamantly against school choice while Republicans generally favor vouchers. NEA president Bob Chase has said that he would be against school choice even if it came with a tripling of funding for schools. The logic seems to be that it is better to ignore the demands of black parents than to concede a Republican victory.

There are also explicit social norms among educators against aiding and abetting "the enemy." As a charter school educator, I encountered public school teachers who refused to shake my hand at conferences. At the level of academic expertise, I once attended a lecture by William Damon, a leading figure in the moral development of children. After his talk, I explained to him that in my experience it was easier to provide the conditions for moral development that he had just described -- caring, mentoring adults who shared a moral vision -- at charter and private schools than at public schools. In front of an auditorium full of public school educators, he prevaricated and said "It may be difficult but we must try." Afterwards, at the wine and cheese reception, I approached him privately and there he acknowledged immediately that yes, it was much easier to provide for healthy moral development at a charter or private school. Wouldn't it have been more helpful to the cause of truth had he stated this bluntly to the public school educators?

In 1994 I was running a public school program designed to improve critical thinking skills at an inner city school in Anchorage. Although we had results showing that minority females had gained the equivalent of four years' worth of critical thinking skills in one semester (on a test that correlates with the SAT), no one in the district was interested. The reason: the teachers' union was threatening a strike, and all optional programs were on the chopping block in order to meet union demands.

Meanwhile, I received the following from a student I'll call Rosa:

"At the beginning of the school year I viewed things in basically one way. I didn't try to see things at different angles or ways. One way had always been enough, had been all I cared about. I talked a lot. A whole lot. I still do, but it's different now. Before, I talked to get my point across or argue. Now I talk to inform others of my feelings or thoughts, to make sure I have a clear understanding of what someone else has thought and to add new ideas. I now talk to learn.

"All the reading I've done adds to my vocabulary, my listening skills, and the understanding of feelings and emotions. Books used to seem unrealistic and over-dramatized to me. It seemed that someone in every book I read was either too stupid, too prissy, too snobby, too rich, too depressed, too suppressed, or too out of touch to even exist. But now it seems that those people that were only in books and on TV are living next door.

"I used to be the kind of person to do things without thinking, but now I think about what I'm doing too much. And before it didn't bother me when others tried to change my thoughts on things, maybe because I used to do the same thing too, but now I get angry and have attitudes when others try to change my way of thinking and feeling.

"There is only one definition of the change I've gone through this year. It's not called growth. It's NEW GROWTH. New growth is known to African-American women as the growth of hair. Hair that is curly and wavy. Hair that needs to be straightened out. New growth is what lengthens hair and allows new styles to be tried.

"I can see things differently and because of that I can try and learn new things. And most importantly, new growth lengthens. I believe what I've learned will lengthen my life.

"Thanks for the New Growth."

I want school choice so that I can raise African-American SATs and provide students like Rosa with transformative experiences. African-American parents want new growth for their children. Why are good people standing in the way of a good thing?

Michael Strong is CEO and co-founder of FLOW, Inc., www.flowidealism.org.


[1] Minneapolis Star Tribune, 2/2/2006.

[2] Washington Post, 2/2/2006

[3] Booker, Zimmer, and Budden, "The Effect of Charter Schools on School Peer Composition," Rand Corporation Working Paper, October 2005.

[4] Reason, "Champion of Choice," John Fund interviews Polly Williams, http://reason.com/williamsint.shtml.

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25 Comments

Of course its just those who can move
There is a money issue involved. The only perents that are moving kids are the ones that have the Money to do so.

Race isn't going to play a facter. THe two main factors are:

1. The condition of the school system.
2. The ability and the availability of charter schools.

What is surprising about this? Big ho hum...

They have always been allowed to do so!
Everyone has always been allowed to not send their children to government schools.

Better than charter schools or vouchers would be a tax deduction equal to the average cost per student (say about $7,000) for people whose school age children are not in government schools (this way it covers home schoolers). Alternatively you could charge the rich and middle class to send their children to Government subsidize but this far more difficult politically.

Since you cannot through Government subsidize the middle class it is imperative that rich and middle class be encouraged to get out of the Government schools. Leaving Government schools to the truly needy.


Anyone who can flees the public school system
It has failed to educate for several decades. It now serves to indoctrinate the rugrats in "self esteem" and "mother gaia." I have an entrance exam to a Hersey City public high school from about 1890 that a university student would have difficulty with. Without discipline and strict standards you don't have teachers, you have warders.

Freedom of choice
Parents who chose to not subject their children to state sponsored education should be able to totally opt out of the system, including paying taxes to support a system that is not meeting the needs of their children.

It is the height of arrogance for the educational establishment to tell people that they are free to send their children to private schools, but hey still have to pay for the public school system.

I and my children graduated from the public school system. I had to pass a test on the US Constitution to pass the 7th Grade and the state constitution to pass the 8th Grade. My children growing up in another state had to take lots of other tests, but none on the knowledge of what the US or state Constitutions. They were not even required to read the US Constitution. It is like the educational establishment didn't want them to know that public education is not even mentioned in the Constitution.

A NATION AT RISK IS 15 YEARS OLD; STILL NO IMPROVEMENT
The education of children is the parents’ responsibility. This was the rule in Biblical times and in America up until about 1860, when we had the world’s highest literacy rate. Today we have average literacy – 46% of Americans adults 16 to 64 are functionally illiterate, unable to fill out a job application without assistance, - the same as in Europe.

Our biggest problem is our inability to educate boys. Only 40% of the students on college campuses today are male, and last year there were 137 Female college graduates to every 100 male graduates. These statistics are unrelated to the fact that for decades we have been using look-say methods to teach reading, which is associated with 5 out of 20 males but only 1 out of 20 females being usable to read functionally. To put it another way, we fail to teach 25% of males and 5% of females to read, a 40/60 split.

Even so, females are not equally represented in science, math, and engineering. Harvard professors complained bitterly about this lack, and caused their president to resign for suggesting that females seem not as good in these fields as males for some reason. Not a word of concern for the 40/60 male to female split among college students. Professors and their universities have justly earned the contempt of the public by their constant attempts to make us silently tolerate bald-faced lies, politely called political correctness. There is more freedom of speech in a jail.

Our next biggest problems are our inability to educate blacks and Mexicans. They also are in short supply on college campuses, but in over-abundant supply in prisons. The less we educate people, the more of them we find in jail.

Males, Blacks and Mexicans are the hardest hit by lack of education. Bad teachers, curricula, textbooks, and food, all basically selected by state legislatures, pursuant to teacher union and school of education dictates, are the major cause. Teacher unions, university professors, teachers, blacks, and Mexicans are the major support of the Democratic Party. While males, blacks and Mexicans are equally victims of the failure of school to teach them to read, write, and compute, only males seem to see where the blame lies and vote Republican.

In that regard, it’s enlightening to know that Michael Strong feels “Republican soccer moms are a core anti-choice constituency;” and this despite almost daily news stories telling us of Democrats, teacher unions, teachers, university professors, and schools of education doing all they can to undermine school choice. A mandatory sop to political correctness to try to keep in good standing, I suppose.

From 1937 to 1948, I went to Catholic school. The 1st and 2d, 3d and 4th, and 5th and 6th grades were taught together. There were 50-60 kids in a classroom. Most by far learned to read well. Five of us skipped the 4th grade into the 5th, about 1/6th. They made more geniuses then. IQs have been steadily increasing all over the world since 1930.

In the 1950s I had to help my nieces learn to read. I found this strange. I had no difficulty learning to read (bat, cat hat, etc., were up on the blackboard the first day of school), and the 2 girls seemed as smart as I was. Everyone in my family and as far as I knew all my friends read well.

In the 1970s I was shocked to find my 149 IQ youngest daughter needed special assistance to learn to read. She learned in a month or two. My wife taught our oldest daughter to read by the time she was 3.5 years old. Her IQ tested 160. Did it take an IQ of at lest 4 standard deviations at age 6 to learn to read without special help?

Boys we know are slower to learn to read, speak, and be taught manners. So it took me from age 3.5 to 5, 1999 to 2001, to teach my oldest son John to read; and from age 3 to 7 to teach my youngest son Sam to read. Both are very bright. How could the public schools, or indeed the private schools, have accommodated Sam’s slower ability to learn to read. They could not, largely because they are largely lock step. There would have been no problem in the old one-room school house.

It follows that doing so poorly teaching the children of our college educated parents to read, we fail abysmally to teach the children of less well educated parents. When the Department of Education’s A Nation At Risk was published in 1982, smart parents got the word and began avoiding the public schools in favor of mom home-schooling their children. Less well to do families had moms who had to work and so they chose to move to better school districts and then charter schools as that choice became available.

There is some doubt abut students gaining proficiency in charter schools. But there is no doubt at all that parents and students in those schools are quite satisfied with them, if only because they are safer and the students are in school with the children of other concerned parents.

Rosa is my kind of person. How I wish many more, especially males, could be like her. We need the smartest, most educated females possible, first and foremost as mothers. Whatever else they do, our smartest females must, where reasonably possible, be mothers of at least three children. Whatever else the rest of us do, we must try to produce optimum conditions for making this possible.

Many women, but not most by far, are not especially made for motherhood. Their ambitions may be more suited to being doctors, politicians, scribblers, judges, prime ministers, presidents and CEOs where brains are the basic criterion. But very few should be combat soldiers except under the extreme conditions, as in Israel. A few more can be plumbers, electricians, physicists, mathematicians, engineers, and the like, but all is lost if women want equal representation here. And we should be ashamed to have female laborers except in national emergency.

No Child Left Behind will force schools to start teaching males, blacks, Mexicans, and the 1/20 females, where they now fail, to read, write and compute.

Black Flight
I think what's interesting here is that Mr. Strong has made a very specific case. What is clear is that African-American families are not happy with public schooling in America. And everytime we try to fix public education, the fix includes building a bigger, more cumbersome and antiquated bureaucracy. Why?

In the end, schools need to resemble their communities more and the Federal Government less. That would be one step toward making better schools--for everybody.

Not true all but the poor can easily afford to send thier children to private schools eom

Trap the most needy?
So you want to allow people with money to have a better chance to get a good education, but would like to see the 'truly needy' get the short end of the stick by leaving them in failing schools with no choice in the matter?

Real compassionate.

I think that the added competition would cause an improvement in the public schools. eom

PS Would you agree that it makes no sense to give vouchers to the rich and middle class.
PS Would you agree that it makes no sense to give vouchers to the rich and middle class and that vouchers discriminate against home schoolers and that our courts have found vouchers unconstitutional.


So I guess you favor vouchers
Anyone who says this is one step removed from Al Franken.

Are you nuts?
The courts have also ruled its constitutional to seizew private property from one man and give it to another. The law is an ass.

Why should anyone be forced to tolerate and participate in a system that does not function involuntarily?

No.
It makes no sense to take peoples money with the basic message that 'We know what we're doing, just sit down, shut up, and let us run this thing'.

Ideally I believe that the government should have no role at all in any school system.

Realistically I understand that education is a requirement and some people simply can't afford it.

The federal governemnt really has no role in education. It is a leach and a hiderance. The states should decide how they want to run their schools. Federal and state taxes should be adjusted to handle the shift in funding.

Under such a system I would personally request that my state would allow me to choose any school, or I would move to a state that would allow me to choose.

You are right that Allowing tax breaks for those that do send their children to private schools would increase competition and increase the quality of the public schools, but I still don't understand why you want to allow more options to people in a government run system based on the amount of money they have.

constitution
The courts have not ruled that vouchers are unconstitutional.

A few courts have ruled that giving vouchers to religious schools is unconstitutional, but these rulings are clearly in error.

The Florida SC recently ruled that Florida's constitutional guarentee of equal education is violated by vouchers. But this is ridiculous, especially considering the wide variation between FL public schools.

As to not giving vouchers to rich and middle class. It makes as much sense to say that the rich and middle class shouldn't be allowed to go to public school for free either.

If if that were true
There is rarely enough supply of private schools to fill the demand. Since most people are a lot of people how do you suppose these rich people are going to educate their children when most of the seats in the private schools are filled?

The market will need considerable time to adjust.

Everyone should get the vouchers so that the public school system can fade away slowly, without the chaos that would be caused my forcing people out of the system

Gees Floccina, so you support forcing taxpayer funded government schooling and the force to keep certain peope out of it. Mygod.

To my critics
1. I know people of very modest means who send their children to private schools. I know people of very modest means who home school their children.

2. Vouchers do not allow people to home school and mingle private schools too much with government.

3. All the schools that my children have gone to have been private and have had extra capacity but if an adjustment period is needed I am ok with that it can be worked out.

4. It makes no sense to give vouchers to rich and middle class students. You would be taking money from them and returning it to them after the politicians take their cut.



I really do not support government schooling but we should ease out of it slowly. My first proposal would be to give families a $7,000 tax deduction for each school age they have that does not attend government schools. This gives a deduction approximately equal to amount spend per pupil in the governments schools to families who either choose to educate their children at home or in private schools. It would serve to move more rich and middle class children out of government schools, leavening the government schools for the truly needy.

Thanks JonathanSwift I agree.
'Parents who chose to not subject their children to state sponsored education should be able to totally opt out of the system, including paying taxes to support a system that is not meeting the needs of their children.

It is the height of arrogance for the educational establishment to tell people that they are free to send their children to private schools, but hey still have to pay for the public school system.'

Thanks I agree. See my $7,000 tax deduction proposal.

Mark
Mark wrote: 'As to not giving vouchers to rich and middle class. It makes as much sense to say that the rich and middle class shouldn't be allowed to go to public school for free either.'

I would agree with that.

We should minimize rather than expand Government welfare. Vouchers given to middle-class and rich would present a vote buying mechanism for politicians. It is best to restrict Government handouts to poor. Would I rather see complete elimination of Government handouts, yes, but this politically impossible at this time.

Step one should be a $7,000 per child tax deduction for parents of school age children who not in Government schools.



Instead you would like to trap everybody. BTW the most needy benefit little from the current system

Are you on drugs?
Apparently in your twisted mind I want to trap everybody by allowing them complete and total choice of schooling, and you want to liberate the needy by forcing them into a government run monopoly.

At this point I don't think you have anything intellectually to add to the conversation (if you ever did) and I don't see the point of any communication beyond this last message.

if you truely wanted to help the poor
Then you would eliminate your support for public charity of any kind.
Private charity has always been more efficient at both supporting the poor, and helping them to adopt those behaviors that gets them to stop being poor in the first place.

Govt charity has always resulted in reinforcing the self defeating behaviors.

Again I agree
'Then you would eliminate your support for public charity of any kind.
Private charity has always been more efficient at both supporting the poor, and helping them to adopt those behaviors that gets them to stop being poor in the first place.

Govt charity has always resulted in reinforcing the self defeating behaviors.'

But this politically imposible.

OK let's give food stamps to the rich and middle class also eom

The teacher speaks
Yes we all realize you are dependent on the public education sustem for your living, and a nice one it is too! One wonders if we turned the article around and said the middle class can afford to give up social security just as you argue that the middle class doesn't need vouchers.

How can you argue the one and not the other?

It is impossible to subsidize the middle class and rich.
'One wonders if we turned the article around and said the middle class can afford to give up social security just as you argue that the middle class doesn't need vouchers.'

The middle class and rich do not need social security. Where do you think the money comes from to fund Government Schools and SS. It comes from the rich and middle class.



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