An American tragedy: The real cost of denying people choice in education


As Charlotte, N.C. erupted into racially-charged riots, sadly the conversation hasn’t turned to concrete ways to mitigate the cultural and socioeconomic forces that trap many people of color in failing schools. And once these kids fail in school, this ensnares them in a downward spiral. As the American Psychological Association reports, compared to high school graduates, dropouts are less likely find a job and earn a living wage, and more likely to be poor, suffer from a variety of adverse health outcomes, rely on public assistance, engage in crime and generate other social costs borne by taxpayers.

In Charlotte, the Observer reports that 43 of 165 schools had overall pass rates below 50 percent and that last year those schools served 33,500 students, most of them poor and 95 percent of them nonwhite. With such a failing system, it’s no wonder that the city is on edge. Schools in Baltimore and Ferguson have similar outcomes. Correlation doesn’t imply causation, yet when children of color from poor backgrounds are entrapped in failing schools it’s no wonder that years later we find them rioting in the streets. Right now, we don’t empower parents the choice to send their children to better schools. We are an anti-choice country in this respect.

While much is reported, analyzed and even sung about the cradle-to-prison pipeline, we have yet to build a successful national agenda for strengthening the nuclear family and expanding school choice — a value cherished nationwide by millions of parents and children, many of them black and brown. Indeed, that’s why the waiting lists alone for charter schools have more than 1 million names.

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