NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Black Educator Supports Vouchers to Give Parents Choices

August 7, 2001

Washington Post columnist William Raspberry says he has been wrestling over school vouchers for years. While he supports the expansion of choices for parents who have too few, he worries about draining even more support from the troubled public schools.

However, Howard Fuller, former superintendent of schools in Milwaukee and now head of the Black Alliance for Educational Options, has arrived solidly on the pro-voucher side of the issue, says Raspberry.

  • At one time, Fuller was part of a group calling for a separate black school district in Milwaukee because the public school system was proving not able to educate poor black children.
  • As superintendent, Fuller says he learned "how hard it is to change that system," and that superintendents have much more limited leverage than people think -- for example, in two cases of fairly egregious behavior on the part of teachers, after Fuller fired them they were reinstated with back pay.
  • Also, Fuller wanted to close failing schools, but because the teachers there had seniority, if he opened up another school in its place, the same people would have first preference.
  • Thus, Fuller "finally decided the only way to change a large system is through pressure from the outside."

Milwaukee now has the nation's oldest voucher program -- a means-tested program available to families earning up to 175 percent of the poverty line.

"We have low-income black people who have options that they've never had before," says Fuller. "They can send their kids to Milwaukee public schools, to the Marquette University school, to St. Joan's, to Believers in Christ, to Agape, to Woodson, to the Global Career Academy. Why is that bad?"

Source: William Raspberry, "Solidly for Vouchers," Washington Post, August 5, 2001.


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