Focus Point - Choice as Civil RightsCommentary by Pete du Pont
August 16, 2000
I'm Pete du Pont with the National Center for Policy Analysis. Is school choice redefining the civil rights movement? That's the thesis of Mikel Holt's book "Not Yet Free at Last." He argues, in writing the history of the fight for school choice in Milwaukee, that choice empowers black parents by giving them control over their children's education.
In Milwaukee, black students have a 40 percent dropout rate. In some schools their grade point average is an F+. But over a 10-year period, 8,000 low-income students, mostly minority, were given vouchers they could use to attend private schools, and were excelling.
Holt argues the traditional civil rights groups no longer serve the real concerns of minority parents. It was the parents who lobbied the state to provide vouchers while the NAACP, ACLU and teachers unions opposed choice. The NAACP in particular, Holt says, must change its focus from civil rights and assimilation to empowerment and self-determination, or it will become irrelevant to the very people it hopes to serve.
Those are my ideas, and at the NCPA we know ideas can change the world. I'm Pete du Pont. Next time, Gore's Lieberman pick.