New Black Leaders See Civil Rights Victory

Published December 1, 1998

The U.S. Supreme Court left intact the most important civil rights decision of the decade when it rejected a challenge to the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s school choice decision, according to the Center for New Black Leadership, a Washington, DC-based research and advocacy institute promoting a market-oriented, community-based approach to leadership in black communities in America.

In an amicus brief, the group had urged the Court to “preserve the power of African-American parents to make the fundamental decisions affecting the education of their children.”

“From the very beginning, this has been a civil rights issue for African-American families and children,” commented Michael Williams, a Center board member and former Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights in the U.S. Department of Education. “The opponents of school choice have been more interested in protecting the bureaucratic status quo of failing public schools than helping as many children as possible receive a quality education.”

Leading black conservative Bishop Earl W. Jackson agrees, pointing out that the teacher labor unions–the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association–have spent millions of dollars “to keep low-income parents from being able to choose where their children go to school.” Yet, in some cities, as many as 40 percent of public school teachers send their children to private school.

“The only educational reform that has done anything for our children is school choice,” said Jackson, who also is president of the Samaritan Project, an effort to organize black ministers and parents to support school choice. Why, he asks, shouldn’t low-income parents be allowed to give their children the same opportunity that teacher union member give to their children: the choice of a private school?