The effort to ensure that parent choice is a critical part of any discussion about education reform is considered by many people to be a bad idea at best, and heresy at worst. Conventional wisdom considers the call for parent choice a relatively recent development in America’s long education history. For black people, however, the quest for more parent choice has been our focus for a long time. Coming out of slavery with a strong belief in the value of education, black people were forced to seek out both public and private alternatives in their quest. It was then, and it is now, all about options. The lessons of our history teach us that we cannot, and must not, depend on any one strategy to achieve the goal of educating our young…

Why is our history not well understood? In part it’s because many actors in the world of education policy willfully have obscured and distorted it. An honest portrayal complicates their effort to curtail the expansion of educational options for black people. It is also true that many critics of choice might understand this history and simply have come to a different conclusion about its implications, while others have chosen either to ignore our history or consciously misrepresent it. They thus impede the continuing struggle of African-American people to obtain a quality education for our children…

These opponents have placed one obstacle after another in the path of parents who seek the power to choose the best educational environment for their children. While cloaking their arguments in the rhetoric of democracy, equity, and social justice, they are in fact this generation’s power brokers and are unwilling to give black people, particularly low-income and working-class people, the power they need to determine their own destiny.

Throughout history, black people have waged a continuing struggle to educate themselves and their children. Time and again, black parents have been in a position where others had the power to make fundamental decisions about the education of their children. While those in power have employed very different means, the net result has left low-income and working-class African-Americans with fewer and less adequate educational options. The current debate over parent choice is but the latest chapter in that struggle. This debate arises directly from the fact that far too many of our poorest children are not receiving a quality education. In the starkest of terms, their futures are being snuffed out.

The inestimable Howard Fuller, articulating clearly why the expansion of school choice and Parent Power is critical to addressing the education crisis that is the biggest threat to the civil rights of poor and minority people.

Let me be clear.  I am a strong advocate for equitable, good schools.. I believe that for decades, many public schools in urban areas, have experienced neglect, disorganization, lack of infrastructure, safety concerns and the like. Unfortunately, the suit being brought forth by community activists from 15 cities (including my hometown and yours of Chicago, as well as Philadelphia, where I currently reside) is without merit, has the potential to be detrimental to educational reform for decades and is not in the best interest of those with whom the plaintiffs think they are defending – young children of color from urban neighborhoods in this country.

Here is the simple assertion, in many urban areas, poor performing schools are concentrated, for the most part, in poor performing neighborhoods… What is clear is that as long as we have had public schools in this country there has been inequality… Brown v Board of Education in 1954 did not “end” inequality; it ended legalized segregation of the races… In fact, some would argue that Brown did the reverse… So what does this all mean for the current state of not just public education, but of urban areas in this country?  We have now, in the wake of the increase in accountability, social media and 24/7 news cycles, become incensed about a problem which has been in the shadows of public policy for decades.  Feigning indignation about this situation now is being tardy to the situation at best, and at worse being, in the words of Holden Caulfield, phony.

So Mr. Secretary [of Education Arne Duncan] I implore you and [U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder] to acknowledge that while school closings are not the most desirable situation, they are an important component to restructuring and rebuilding infrastructures.  Not just for downsizing, or “right sizing” Districts, but also because after years of persistent failure (even before the NCLB era), we cannot afford to continue to do the same thing, change the chairs on the Titanic (by replacing administrators, teachers and the like) and expect students (namely students of color) to succeed…

How long must we wait to create not just surface change, but long lasting meaningful change that, in the short term, may hurt, may be an affront to our “normal way of doing things,” but in the long run has the potential to transform lives?  Clearly the current structures and systems are inadequate and not working.  Why not take a chance and work together to not fight the closures, but to make sure that they never happen again by supporting good public schools from their inception.  Not only do we need “school reform” we need a serious discussion and commitment to “neighborhood reform” as well.  In order to achieve change, we need to eliminate these types of frivolous, attention grabbing law suits, and being the difficult task of working together.

Teacher, grad school student, and Dropout Nation Contributor Stuart Rhoden (@ChiTownStu), explaining why closing failing schools in districts such as Philadelphia are necessary to spurring systemic reform and rebuilding urban communities.

A friend of mine is a teacher in a traditional public school.  He is a good guy and has the best interests of his students at heart, like any good teacher. The City of Indianapolis recently created several new charter schools to fit the needs of various student populations.

My friend, we’ll call him Ben, tweeted that this was a bad idea because there were too many charters and not enough oversight.  He also made the argument that he would gladly match up the programs at his school against any charter school.  And that ladies and gentlemen, was the best point anyone could make for choice and competition.

I told Ben that I have no doubt that there are programs at his school parents would like, just like there are programs at charters, private, virtual and even home school settings that parents would enjoy.  They should just have the choice to make that decision.

And all charters and choice do is give parents more options to find the best education for their kids.  And who wouldn’t want that?

voiceslogoIndianapolis media personality Abdul-Hakim Shabazz, summing up a clear reason for expanding school options for all families.