NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


April 29, 2008

Scarcely half of American children in our 50 largest cities will leave their public schools with a high-school diploma in hand, according to a study released by America's Promise Alliance.  These children are disproportionately African-American.  Their homes are disproportionately located in our largest public school districts. And the failure is a scar on this great land of opportunity, says the Wall Street Journal.

One of the few hopeful alternatives in these cities are Catholic schools:

  • Minority students at Catholic schools are 42 percent likelier to complete high school than their public school counterparts, according to a University of Chicago researcher.
  • They are also 2 1/2 times more likely to earn a college degree.

These numbers were behind the special White House summit on Inner-City Schoolchildren and Faith-Based Schools convened last Thursday. The emphasis on faith-based schools is a reflection of practicality, because turning around a failing public school or starting up a new one is difficult, costly and takes time that these children can't afford.

There is a political problem when it comes to solving this crisis, says the Journal:

  • Though polls show that African Americans generally favor school choice, they tend not to vote for pro-school-choice candidates who are mainly Republican.
  • Suburban voters of both parties are not enthusiastic about school choice, as many see it as enabling blacks and Latinos to find their way into their children's schools.
  • The teachers unions devote their considerable resources to fighting any measure that increases accountability or gives parents more options.

So when politicians have to choose between a teachers union and some African-American mom who would like to take her son out of a failing public school, guess who usually wins?

Source:  William McGurn, "McCain's School Choice Opportunity," Wall Street Journal, April 29, 2008.

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