Support Vouchers

Published October 14, 2005

CHICAGO–Don Wycliff’s cautious endorsement of school vouchers (“If we really cared about educating kids, school vouchers could be the key to their salvation,” Commentary, Sept. 28) was right on target.

Too many public schools in Chicago, like those in many other major cities, are increasingly run for the benefit of some adults they employ and the contractors they pay, not the African-American children who fill their classrooms.

The acrimony surrounding this debate is the steady drumbeat of “vouchers will destroy the public system.” That’s sheer nonsense and merely talking points for some union leaders and politicians. Most public schools, suburban and city, are doing well and should not be touched. But we African-Americans have to ask some serious questions.

What’s going wrong with us? Not so much in relation to our white friends, but in relation to all of our children in the African-American community. We are ready to march for everything, but how do we protest the black education gap?

The results are in afer a two-year study that included New York City, Washington, and Dayton, Ohio, which stated that school vouchers make a big difference for black students who were enrolled in bad-performing city schools.

Neither conservatives nor Republicans did the study. It was the liberal Brookings Institution and Harvard University.

Party loyalty is noble if it is earned, but it is foolish when squandered on those who hurt rather than help us lift ourselves up from want and despair. Opinion polls show support for vouchers runs as high as 80 percent in the African-American community. It is long past time for our community leaders to hear what the voices in Chicago’s hurting neighborhoods are saying.

I organized the first meeting for black parents at the University of Chicago ever held in Chicago to explain the voucher system.

Although I understand that many in the community have been told that they are indebted to the public system for what it has accomplished in the past, it has not kept pace with the educational demands of today.

Let’s stop arguing about which political party is the best while the lives of another generation of children are endangered and their futures compromised by an inadequate education system.

Let’s allow parents to choose how their children are educated.

Lee Walker ([email protected]) is president of The New Coalition for Economic and Social Change. This letter-to-the-editor was published on October 14, 2004 by the Chicago Tribune.