Tuesday, April 29, 2008

School Choice

WSJ talks about school choice in the inner city. A battle that many Republicans have fought for for many years. The WSJ makes the point that this is an issue John McCain can roll with because he isn't beholden to the powerful teacher's union like the Democrats are.

Scarcely half of American children in our 50 largest cities will leave their public schools with a high-school diploma in hand, according to a study released by America's Promise Alliance. These children are disproportionately African-American. Their homes are disproportionately located in our largest public school districts. And the failure is a scar on this great land of opportunity.

One University of Chicago researcher found that minority students at Catholic schools are 42% likelier to complete high school than their public school counterparts – and 2 1/2 times more likely to earn a college degree. In difficult circumstances, and for an increasingly non-Catholic student body, these schools are doing heroic work.

And at a fraction of the cost per pupil I might add.

Why school choice hasn't happened?

First, though polls show that African Americans generally favor school choice, they tend not to vote for pro-school-choice candidates who are mainly Republican. Second, suburban voters of both parties are not enthusiastic about school choice. Many of these voters see increasing options for inner city kids as enabling blacks and Latinos to find their way into their children's schools. And of course, the teachers unions devote their considerable resources to fighting any measure that increases accountability or gives parents more options.

On April 24th President Bush presented the White House Summit on Inner-City Children and Faith-Based Schools .

Maybe you wonder how Catholic schools can educate students who are non Catholic. Kathryn Jean Lopez @ NRO makes this point:

Eighty-one percent of the students served by the Memphis Jubilee schools are not Catholic. In the U.S. overall since 1970, the number of minority students in Catholic schools have increased by 250 percent, and the number of non-Catholics by more than 500 percent, according to the White House. At the summit, Joseph P. Viteritti, an urban studies professor at Hunter College, quoted an oft-used mission line for Catholic educators: “We don’t educate poor children because they are Catholic; we educate them because we are Catholic.” The good these schools do for disadvantaged students should outweigh any “wall of separation” concerns. As President Bush stressed at the summit: “That’s what we ought to be focused on: how to get people a great education.”

John McCain has the voice that inner city African Americans will hear. I agree that it's a vital issue that he would do well to address. And let's don't pretend this is about getting votes. We won't get them from the black community...yet. But if we continue to show that their concerns are our concerns, then it might just start to turn things around.