Let My People Go: Removing the Shackles of Academic Jim Crow

On Wednesday March 29, Betsy DeVos, the Secretary of Education, gave a thoughtful speech before the Brookings Institution. The speech was a substantive development in a week otherwise dominated by the ongoing investigation into the Trump administration, which—as it happens—is turning into an investigation of Democrat spying.

In her speech DeVos’s noted that, “parents know what is best for their kids. No parent should be denied the opportunity to send his or her son or daughter to a school with confidence that he or she can learn, grow and be safe.”

The sad fact is that many parents and their children are trapped in neighborhood public schools that do deny them these opportunities. Administrators and teacher unions consistently have failed to respond to their cries for responsibility and accountability. For example, in Chicago, the teacher’s union blocked measures parents and reformers wanted, preferring to keep things the way they were. But those ways have failed the city and her residents badly. According to the Illinois Policy Institute, “Forcing students to attend schools that routinely fail them is wrong and can leave scars that last well into the future. They need immediate relief, not broken promises about how things will change for the better five or 10 years down the road.”

Traditional public schools, and their state government clients, stand in the way of educational choice. As Donald Trump Jr. remarked during the Republican Convention, “our schools used to be an elevator to the middle class; now they’re stalled on the ground floor. They’re like Soviet-era department stores that are run for the benefit of the clerks and not the customers, for the teachers and the administrators and not the students.”

Many states have recognized that for some, another option is necessary. Many have opted to allow charter schools to fill the educational void. Charters are public schools held to the same standards as traditional public schools but, unlike the failing public schools, charters are subject to closure if they do not perform. In my own state of North Carolina, charter schools have outscored their traditional public school peers in 12 out of 13 demographic categories.

Increasingly, parents and state government officials in communities with a preponderance of minorities are supporting school choice. The Department of Education has heard their concerns and responded. In the proposed 2018 budget, the present administration has increased spending for charter and private school education.

DeVos noted in her speech that one parent understood the situation to be so dire that she had to act on her “inalienable right” to find her child an educational alternative providing an education in keeping with her dignity and nature as a human being. As many parents in poor communities are coming to realize, they need a choice if they hope to see their children escape the stranglehold foisted upon them by the traditional public school system. Freedom and liberty demand they have the option to help their children rise to the level of equality America, at her best, seeks to secure.

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9 responses to “Let My People Go: Removing the Shackles of Academic Jim Crow”

  1. Hello Mr Root,
    Thank you for posting this article! I am very worried about who will be able to lead our country into the future and without choice I fear indoctrination will produce a generation of incapable zombies. So please keep posting articles containing your opinions. It gives one hope and is refreshing to read opinions that align with mine.

    All the best!

  2. “Charters are public schools held to the same standards as traditional public schools.” As a public teacher in an impoverished school system, I can tell you this statement is wrong for a couple reasons. Charters have the option of kicking out students who aren’t performing. They may get some kind of probation period, but they can definitely be kicked out. Traditional public schools obviously can’t do that. For another thing, charters do not have to hire certified teachers. This means that they can hire unqualified people who sometimes have not had any training in special education, for example. At least one charter in my area is actually being sued for not providing special education resources to students. And although this isn’t directly related to the quote above, it is the parents who really, really care about their children’s educations who are entering the lottery to be enrolled in a charter to begin with. So obviously those parents are also going to be more supportive with homework, etc.

    • Hello Kate,
      Your comment does not problem solve. The voters are rejecting people without solutions.

      • If we use blatant falsehoods, we are no better than the Democrats, so I was pointing out the flawed logic in the article. By saying that charter schools are the solution, we are pretending that traditional public schools are failing, when actually it is the communities that are failing. Conservative educators do have a few ideas for improving things, too detailed to explain in a comment here. But the gist of them would be: end all programs that further disenfranchise parents from their students’ educations, make all schools private in some form, and use social promotion sparingly. Perhaps ending Head Start and instead using that money to fund a program for birth-3 year olds that would be mandatory for children of teenage mothers (and the mothers would also have to attend).

    • First of all, thank you for posting your views. Nothing the follows should be considered as stated with disrespect. Because charter schools *can* hire ‘unqualified’ people, but they don’t have to. Being able to remove ‘under-performing’ students is, no doubt, a way to make sure these schools ‘make the numbers’ but how much removal for under-performance is actually going on. Because charter schools can be closed means they have an incentive to avoid failure. There are, quite obviously, better and worse ways to do this. Some are going to go the (mostly) ‘better’ route and some are not. As for charter schools being sued for not providing special education resources to children, I do wonder if that might be another tactic from teacher’s unions to discredit and shut down charter schools, rather than an honest interest in serving the special education community. At one time, public education did less and was better at it. My grandmother went no higher than 8th grade and I can honestly say, she seemed to know alot more than I did at 8th grade (but that could just be my limitations). I wonder how many of the wonderful teachers I had as a child would, under the current system of over-credentialing would be considered ‘qualified’? Some parents (for whatever reasons) are less concerned about their children being educated than others, but that should not be an impediment to making sure that every parent who *wants* to see their children educated has every opportunity for doing so. If, after all is said and done, we need to take steps to address large numbers of ‘under-performers’ or disruptive children, then that is what we must do. As unpleasant as it might be to contemplate, I have often wondered if under-performing and disruptive children might not be better doing some kind of useful paid ‘work under adult supervision with the idea of slip-streaming age appropriate learning into their work experience.

      • No disrespect taken at all! I’m not suggesting we throw the baby out with the bath water as far as charters are concerned. But charters are private schools disguised as public, and to suggest otherwise is dishonest, and frankly, will hurt Republicans in the long term. For one thing, public school educators are a huge potential voting bloc that gets turned off by such rhetoric. As to how many low-performing students are actually being removed from charters, we would usually get about 4 per year on my team. That means 8 for my school, and we had 3 middle schools in my district. They add up, in other words. As for special education students not being serviced correctly, I believe the complaint came from parents when they put a secret camera on their child. The severely disabled student spent the day in a closet. I am no fan of teacher unions for reasons I won’t go into here. You did hit on something important: “Public education did less and was better at it.” Bingo. Schools weren’t expected to teach young people morals, manners, and the like back then. I also like your paid work idea for troubled students, and a similar model is being used in certain special education programs – but basically it is expensive.

      • I see your point about whether charter schools are private. I’m not an expert in this area, so pardon my ignorance, but it seems like you’re saying charter schools would be more accurately described as ‘publicly funded private institutions’. As for costs, ‘point accounting’ rarely reveals the total costs of any public expenditure. ‘Holistic accounting’ while more difficult (requires more data, analysis and, often, unproven assumptions) typically comes closer to total costs. As for putting a child in a closet for a day, that wouldn’t be right no matter what kind of child was involved.

  3. “Let My People Go: Removing the Shackles of Academic Jim Crow”

    The really fantastic upside to the media’s constant discombobulation every time they hear the words “President Trump” is that the accomplished, dedicated, professional, Cabinet Secretaries he’s appointed are bringing order back to Americans lives.

    The funny upside to the media’s constant discombobulation every time they hear the words “President Trump” is that it’s like watching someone repeatedly stick a bobby pin into an electric socket.

  4. Democrats CANNOT allow parents to decide what’s best for their children. Nothing threatens their power base more than an educated electorate with little need for government dependency.