Three months ago, I read Matthew Desmond’s Evicted (https://www.amazon.com/Evicted-Poverty-Profit-American-City/dp/0553447459/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1497280091&sr=8-1&keywords=evicted) . His study focuses on poverty amongst Milwaukee, Wisconsin’s African Americans and Caucasians. For two weeks, each time that I turned on my shower, I thanked God for clean water, working plumbing, and the ability to bathe in a clean environment. The book paints a dark picture of life for poor Milwaukee residents. Desmond also delves into the racial tension amongst blacks and whites within the urban city. Dr. Desmond spends a significant amount of time discussing the impact that poverty has made on the children whose parents struggle to pay rent. At times, they are forced to live with relatives and/or in shelters due to their parents’ evictions.
One cannot help but wonder how their living conditions have impacted their education. It would have been interesting if Desmond had explored how the children struggled with poverty and education, especially since Milwaukee has the oldest school voucher program due to the significant number of African American children living in poverty. In “Lessons On Race and Vouchers From Milwaukee,” Claudio Sanchez discusses the pros and cons associated with the usage of school vouchers (http://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2017/05/16/523612949/lessons-on-race-and-vouchers-from-milwaukee) . He states that during the 2016-2017 academic year, the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program “issued nearly 28,000 vouchers for low-income kids to attend dozens of private and religious schools at public expense.” Some would think that since these vouchers were allowing children to have a private education, that their academic experiences would be a vast improvement over their Wisconsin public school one. For many students, their educational experience worsened. Consequently, this has led to a major divide between African American Milwaukee leaders. Dr. Howard Fuller and Wendell J. Harris are prime examples of this schism. Fuller, a Marquette University professor, is a proponent of vouchers whereas Harris, a “member of the NAACP’s education committee in Wisconsin,” was one of the plaintiffs who sued Wisconsin in 1990 in an effort to prevent the issuance of vouchers. Fuller uses Brown v Board of Education to support his views regarding vouchers. Per Fuller, the landmark Supreme Court decision did not lead to equal educational opportunities for America’s black youth. Harris, however, views vouchers as a means for Caucasian churches to improve the physical conditions of their churches on the “backs” of African Americans. He argues that the Catholic and Christian schools are exploiting black children in order to “save” their church. In short, the vouchers were providing the churches with the money needed to make repairs and replenish their building fund. All of this was being done under the “guise” of Jesus’ commandment, “Let the children come to me.” In short, some parents feel that their children being in a safe learning environment supersedes what they learn, and these sentiments are nothing more than educators exploiting black children.
Charter versus public schools. Charter versus public schools. Daily, I feel as if America is on a never-ending merry-go round when it comes to this topic. I have to agree with Harris – America has been “demonizing” public school teachers and schools for the last 25-30 years. Charter schools and vouchers have been deemed as the “cure” to the United States’ epidemic regarding ineffective school systems. From my assessment, vouchers are serving as a cute, Hello Kitty/Marvel Comics Band Aid to a wound that needs surgery in order to properly heal. Children, with learning disabilities, are leaving public schools and enrolling at schools that accept vouchers. There, these schools are not required to retain them.
The theory of “Well, my baby is at a Christian school all day, and is being taught about the goodness of the Lord” appalls me. I love the Lord, and I am a product of a Catholic K-12 education; however, there has to be a balance. My parents did not spend thousands of dollars for me to learn about Jesus. They paid tuition in order for me to receive an education that would enable me to be accepted into a university. Learning about Jesus should not take precedence over receiving knowledge about the three Rs.
From my assessment, vouchers are another form of racism. Rather than running to schools that accept vouchers, I need for minority parents to find an educational advocate and learn more about public versus charter/private education. This is how parents can become empowered.
Questions to consider:
1. Parents, if the statistics are showing that vouchers are not improving your child’s educational experience, why is your child still attending that school?
2. For low-income parents, what doors will these schools open for your children? Oftentimes, the vouchers do not cover book fees, uniforms, etc. . .
3. Who actually benefits from vouchers – children or these churches?
4. Dr. Fuller supports Betsy DeVos. Parents, are you alarmed? Please educate yourself regarding how DeVos treated black children who were educated in Michigan charter schools (particularly in Detroit).