NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Black Parents at Odds With Black School Officials on Vouchers

February 26, 2002

Surveys have shown that roughly two-thirds of blacks support educational vouchers that allow parents to send their children to private, parochial or even public schools of their choice. But by almost the same proportion, black public officials defend the performance of public schools and denounce the pro-voucher trend.

  • A survey by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies has found that 69 percent of black federal, state and local elected officials do not support a voucher plan such as the one in Cleveland.
  • Almost three-fifths of black politicians rate their local public schools as excellent or good -- while by nearly the same percentage other black adults rate their public schools as poor to fair.

Why such a deep divide on this issue in the black community? Blacks who are familiar with the debate offer some explanations:

  • First, they note, the number of blacks sharing power and responsibility for urban public education has grown dramatically in recent decades.
  • From 1977 to 1999, the number of black elected officials with influence over public education in cities -- such as mayors, council members, school board members and superintendents -- more than doubled, to 5,815 from 2,724.
  • While this increased representation may have had a positive symbolic effect, the educational achievement of black children and the overall quality of urban public schools have failed to improve significantly.

Blacks who are not office holders reportedly doubt the ability of black government leaders to influence public education policies in ways that would benefit black children. In short, they see their politicians as ineffective.

Source: Michael Lee Owens (Emory University), "Why Blacks Support Vouchers," New York Times, February 26, 2002. 


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