For the past year, a group of black ministers from Detroit has been examining educational choice programs in an effort to identify ways of improving education for all children. Although the Council of Baptist Pastors of Detroit and Vicinity has yet to make its final recommendation, preliminary findings indicate that vouchers are likely to receive the group’s blessing.
Investigations began last fall, when the Council joined the Detroit Chamber and the TEACH Michigan Education Fund for a meeting in Wisconsin to observe Milwaukee’s voucher program. Cleveland’s voucher program was observed during a second three-day working session this spring. The group also traveled to Queens, New York, in the summer to hear the views of the Rev. Floyd H. Flake, a member of Congress and staunch voucher advocate, who has revitalized a run-down neighborhood by providing quality education.
Parental involvement is the “key driving force” to reform public education, says the Council in its findings report, “Empowering Parents to Drive Education Reform.” Vouchers would encourage parental involvement by giving them more choice, says the Rev. Eddie Edwards, president of Joy in Jesus in Detroit.
When parents have a choice, they invest more time in making their choice work, notes the Council, citing an Education Week report that found “the Milwaukee choice program has accomplished one thing beyond dispute: It has deeply involved long-alienated parents in their children’s schooling.”
Noting that poor and minority students have been the big winners from school choice programs, the Council concludes that “state education dollars should follow children to whatever school their families decide is best for them–whether it’s a district, charter, independent or home school.”
After all, Edwards told the Detroit News, “parents are not very much concerned if the quality education package is delivered by the public sector, private sector, or parochial sector.”