SC NAACP opposition to school choice: “Bizzarely inconsistent”

inconsistent

Senator Robert Ford’s unapologetic support for school choice has attracted a lot of attention. While many church leaders and parents have echoed Senator Ford’s demand for reform, some politicians and establishment insiders have responded with the usual unfounded rhetoric and fear mongering.

Nationally acclaimed school choice expert, Dr. Andrew Coulson, weighs in on the situation.

The South Carolina NAACP is among the most strident opponents of a new education tax credit proposal in that state that would make it easier for families — especially poor families — to choose private schools for their kids.

But the NAACP’s national platform states that:

The NAACP is a leading advocate of equal access to quality education.  In an effort to promote and ensure education opportunities for minority youth, the NAACP offers the following national scholarships: Earl G. Graves Scholarship, Agnes Jones Scholarship, …. These awards help eliminate financial difficulties that may hinder students’ education goals.

Doesn’t that put the SC NAACP’s position into clear conflict with its parent organization? Actually, no. I deleted the qualifier “higher” before the word “education” in the block quote above. The NAACP strongly supports scholarships for poor kids to attend private schools, so long as the kids are over 18 or so.

A few years ago I debated this bizarre inconsistency with a very candid and pleasant NAACP representative, and his response boiled down to this: ”I lived through the Jim Crow South and I don’t trust a bunch of white Republicans to have our best interests in mind.” Fair enough. We shouldn’t trust politicians of any stripe to have the public’s interests in mind on any issue. We should instead look at what actually works best both here and around the world, and do that.

From the largest shanty town in Africa, to the slums of Hyderabad, India, to the remote rural villages of in-land China, the poor are already choosing private schools in vast numbers. And those schools are significantly outperforming their public sector counterparts at a fraction of the cost. Their stories are told in The Beautiful Tree, a compelling new narrative non-fiction book by scholar and world-traveler James Tooley. Cato is launching the book at noon on April 15th at our DC headquarters. I hope someone from the NAACP will attend.

Oh, and in case it matters to anyone, the lead advocate of SC’s tax credit school choice program is state senator Robert Ford, an African American Democrat. For some reason the NAACP still opposes it.

Bizarre inconsistency” is perhaps the best description of the NAACP’s opposition to providing poor, minority families with access to quality K-12 education. In Florida and Pennsylvania, many thousands of low-income students have been moved into better-performing schools with the help of tuition tax credit programs. There is no justifiable reason to oppose choice on the grounds that school choice can not provide the same benefits to families in South Carolina. Senator Ford’s commitment to a measure that would greatly help minority students is totally consistent with his history of fighting for civil rights, and totally consistent with the spirit of the NAACP’s stated national platform.

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