SCHOOL CHOICE: THE ANSWER TO BROWN V. BOARD OF EDUCATION
January 10, 2006
The Supreme Court's Brown v. Board of Education ruling in 1954 was supposed to have improved educational opportunities for minorities, yet the educational chasm between minority and non-minority schoolchildren is as great now as it was then, says Clint Bolick of the Hoover Institution.
In the technical sense, the ruling has worked; official school segregation by race has largely ended and thousands of minority students have obtained decent educations, but the levels of academic deficiencies have grown, says Bolick.
- In 2002, 46 percent of black eighth graders and 44 percent of Hispanics scored below basic proficiency in reading.
- In 1995, an average black high school senior graduated at an academic level three years behind that of their white counterparts; today, the gap has widened to four years.
- In 2003, only 51 percent and 52 percent of black and Hispanic students, respectively, graduated from high school.
The bright light on the horizon is school choice; programs in Milwaukee and Florida suggest that it can reduce the gap, says Bolick:
- In Milwaukee, nearly 64 percent of the children in school choice programs graduate from high school, compared to only 37 percent in the public schools.
- In Florida -- which has more school choice than any other state -- reading test scores have improved among all students since 2001; the percentage of white third graders reading at or above grade level increased from 70 to 78 percent, but it improved even more for black youngsters, from 36 to 52 percent, and for Hispanics, from 46 to 61 percent.
Moreover, school choice helps level the playing field; it gives low-income families greater power over their children's education, forces schools to improve and to focus not on satisfying politicians and special interest groups but on satisfying parents, says Bolick.
Source: Clint Bolick, "All Deliberate Speed?" Hoover Digest, no. 3, Fall 2005.
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